Selected Shorts: Twice Upon a Time

“Once Upon A Time” … The classic opening line of one of the oldest and most beloved sub genres of the short story, the fairy tale. We’ve called this program “Twice Upon A Time”, because it offers attempts by contemporary fiction writers to take a second look at well-known, or not so well known, fairy tales.


Three of the stories featured on this program are from the intriguing anthology, My Mother She Killed Me My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales, edited by Kate Bernheimer.  The first is the San Francisco writer and artist Jonathan Keats’s treatment of the Russian legend of Snrgurochka, the Snow Maiden, which he calls “Ardour.”  Keats’ re-telling focuses on the idea of the heat of love and its desirable and undesirable consequences.  The reader is Lili Taylor.

Next, Russian-born writer Ilya Kaminsky tries his hand at the great Danish master Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Teapot,” in which a poor family’s wish for food gets out of control.  In Kaminsky’s multi-part tale the little pot links lives over time and space.

Kaminsky says he heard this story as a little child, read by his grandmother.  Coming upon it in print many years later, he was surprised to find it so different from what he remembered. “Imagination is just some remembering, from the other side,” he says.  “Little Pot” is read by an actress who is no stranger to make-believe, Sesame Street’s Sonia Manzano.

Our third selection from the anthology is Joyce Carol Oates’ new angle on Charles Perrault’s well-known “Bluebeard.”  This tale of a homicidal husband has been the source of operas and other musical compositions, ballets, and films.  Oates’ version is called “Blue-Bearded Lover,” and is a first-person narrative by the latest of Bluebeard’s wives.   Oates writes “In my variant of this fairy tale, the young, beautiful, naïve bride is really not naïve, she is calculating and canny.”  The reader is Betsy Lippitt.

Our fourth story, “Relic,” by Robert Olen Butler, is not exactly a re-told fairy tale, but we thought it belonged in this program’s assemblage, because it centers on a sacred, revered object, not unlike the Holy Grails, magic swords, Lost Arks, and magical stones that figure in so many fairy tales, folk tales, and legends.  Many of Robert Olen Butler’s short fictions deal with Vietnamese refugees who have found new homes in Louisiana and the narrator of this story is one of them.  He is a successful businessman  who has acquired John Lennon’s shoe, and sees it as a link to his new, American, identity.  Ron Nakahara is the reader.

This fairy-tale laden program concludes with Richard Kennedy’s story, “The Porcelain Man.”   Humanoid creatures made of gingerbread, or straw, often meet violent ends in fairy tales, but the pottery fellow who is the eponymous hero of this tale, is both protean and persistent.  The reader is the AcademyAward-winning actress, Estelle Parsons.

The musical interludes are “Dance on one spot,” from Bela Bartok’s “Romanian Folk Dances,” and the same composer’s “Bluebeard’s Castle.”

The SELECTED SHORTS theme is Roger Kellaway’s “Come to the Meadow.”

“Ardour,” by Jonathan Keats, performed by Lili Taylor

“Little Pot,” by Ilya Kaminsky, performed by Sonia Manzano

“Blue Bearded Lover,” by Joyce Carol Oates, performed by Betsy Lippitt

“Relic,” by Robert Olen Butler, performed by Ron Nakahara

“The Porcelain Man,” by Richard Kennedy, performed by Estelle Parsons 

For additional works featured on SELECTED SHORTS, please visit

We’re interested in your response to these programs.  Please comment on this site or visit

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

(This program first aired during our 2010 season.)