Selected Shorts: Helping Out

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“Help”, wanted, unwanted, sought, and refused, is the topic of today’s two stories; one focusing on present-day Haiti and one from an American master.

Mark Kurlansky’s “The Leopard of Ti Morne” is darkly comic tale about a misguided do-gooder in Haiti, and was first published in the anthology Haiti Noir, edited by Edwidge Danticat, who hosted an evening at Symphony Space that featured several tales from the volume.  SHORTS literary commentator Hannah Tinti says: “What I found compelling about this story is the way Kurlansky intersperses the mythical story of the Leopard with the stories of his characters, underscoring the struggles the people of Haiti have endured.”  The reader is Avatar’s Stephen Lang, a long-time SELECTED SHORTS leading man.

Our second story, John O’Hara’s “Graven Image,” is a battle between old money and an upstart in the corridors of power.  The prolific O’Hara wrote more than thirty books, as well as plays and screenplays, and is probably best known for “Pal Joey,” which was later turned into the famous musical, and “Butterfield 8,” which went on to be a film with Elizabeth Taylor

We are flies on the wall at an exclusive luncheon spot, and as the two men in O’Hara’s story vie for power and probe old wounds, listen for subtle forms of one-upmanship such as the reference to the “graven image” of the title.   It is not a conventional idol, but a little figure of a pig worn on a watch fob by members of Harvard’s exclusive Porcellian Club.

“Graven Image” was originally published in The New Yorker in 1943, and was read by the Broadway and film star Denis O’Hare at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

“The Leopard of Ti Morne,” by Mark Kurlansky, performed by Stephen Lang

“Graven Image,” by John O'Hara, performed by Denis O'Hare

The SELECTED SHORTS theme is David Peterson's “That's the Deal,” performed by the Deardorf/Peterson Group.

For additional works featured on SELECTED SHORTS, please visit

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And for more thoughts on the stories in SHORTS, check out literary commentator Hannah Tinti’s site at