Selected Shorts: Where Am I?

This program includes four pieces exploring the ideas of time, place, and identity, beginning with SHORTS host Isaiah Sheffer’s reading of Jonathan Safran Foer's  “Why I’m Not Where You Are, 5/21/63,” from his book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close


The story takes the form of a letter to an as yet unborn child, and the writer is telling of his loss of language and how he increasingly is forced to spell out words on pages of his notebook, words he can no longer speak aloud.  Safran Foer renders this graphically in his novel, and Sheffer said his challenge was to find an aural dimension for the narrator’s physical life.

Jonathan Safran Foer is the bestselling author of Everything Is Illuminated, Tree of Codes, and Eating Animals.  SHORTS literary commentator Hannah Tinti notes that “He’s always pushing the boundaries of narration in his writing,” as in this novel, about living with hope after 9/11.

The second two pieces on this program push narrative and performance boundaries as well.  First, playwright Will Eno’s mock interview with himself, from the literary magazine The Believer, becomes an exploration of exactly who he is.  The Believer is published under the umbrella of Dave Egger’s McSweeney’s and is a forum for intellectual debate that is “lively but not snarky” says Tinti. 

Will Eno is based in Brooklyn, New York and his work “Thom Pain: Based on Nothing” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize  It famously inspired New York Times critic Charles Isherwood to dub him “A Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation.”

Next, from an evening with the storytelling series The Moth, the actor James Braly riffs on his favorite subject, his marriage, in a story about trying to prove his manhood during the New York City blackout of a few years ago.

In a return to the classic form, the program ends with William Maxwell’s tender and meticulous modern fairy tale, “All the Days and Nights,” in which a man sets out to recover each lost moment in his own past.  William Maxwell was a long-time editor at The New Yorker.   The reader is the stage and film star Tony Roberts.


“Why I'm Not Where You Are,” by Jonathan Safran Foer, performed by Isaiah Sheffer

“Interview,” by Will Eno, performed by the author 

From The Moth:  A James Braly performance

“All the Days and Nights,” by William Maxwell, performed by Tony Roberts

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