Selected Shorts: Growing Up Fast

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A program devoted to “growing up fast.”  In our first story, Tobias Wolff’s “Smorgasbord,” two prep-school boys lose their innocence in more way than one when the stepmother of a classmate take them out to dinner.  The prep school is familiar turf for Wolff, who lied his way into his own school, a move that may have prepared him for his future career as a fiction writer.

Wolff is the author of the novels The Barracks Thief and Old School, the memoirs This Boy's Life and In Pharaoh's Army, and the short story collections In the Garden of the North American Martyrs, Back in the World, and The Night in Question. His most recent collection of short stories is Our Story Begins, and he is a recipient of the Rae Award for the Short Story among other honors.

Of “Smorgasbord,” SHORTS literary commentator Hannah Tinti notes:

“One of the teachers in ‘Smorgasbord’ tells his students “they should not be in too great a hurry to lose their innocence”. It becomes a joke, but in truth this warning resonates as the boys make their way through most of the seven deadly sins: Gluttony, Lust, Pride, Greed, and Envy, with even a little Sloth and Wrath thrown in. By the end of the story, the narrator has lost something really valuable—how he looks at the world.”

The reader is regular SHORTS leading man Rene Auberjonois.

“Growing up fast,” takes on another meaning in Elizabeth Crane’s “Football”, which starts with the image of a homecoming weekend, and accelerates right through one woman’s imagined next life.  Hannah Tinti notes:

“In interviews Elizabeth Crane says that she’s been heavily influenced by David Foster Wallace. She’s known for doing a lot of fun and imaginative things with language—footnotes, lists, parenthetical statements, long sentences and repetitions, as she does in ‘Football.’”

Crane lives in Austin, Texas and has published three collections of stories. When The Messenger is Hot, All this Heavenly Glory, and You Must be This Happy to Enter.  Her debut novel, entitled “We Only Know so Much” is due to be published by Harper Perennial.  She grew up in New York City, so the small town life she imagines in her story is probably as much a fantasy for her as for her unnamed narrator.  The reading was recorded at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, and is read by the company’s artistic director  Martha Lavey

“Smorgasbord,” by Tobias Wolff, performed by Rene Auberjonois

“Football,” by Elizabeth Crane, performed by Martha Lavey


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