Selected Shorts: Wishing You the Best

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Praying to God, playing God, and mysterious ways in four tales comic and strange

The first two stories on this program are from an evening at Symphony Space hosted by the comic writer Ian Frazier, drawn from his anthology Humor Me.  Chip Zien, who starred on Broadway as the Baker in Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods,” reads

“A Prayer,” by Paul Sims.  Sims, a writer  for “Late Night with David Letterman” and other television shows, petitions God for a dignified death (i.e., not naked, not involving the union protest rat, not something your friends will laugh about at your funeral…you get the idea.)  Literary commentator Hannah Tinti says the story reminds her of the Darwin Awards, which are bestowed each year on those who shuffled off their mortal coil most embarrassingly.

Continuing in the vein of what host Isaiah Sheffer has dubbed “liturgical comedy,” is his own reading of Frazier’s “Lamentations of the Father,” with the simple but hilarious premise that the average suburban Dad is a worthy counterpart to the Almighty, with many commandments—most ending, “But not in the living room.” 

In a switch of mood and time period, the third story on the program is by the 19th-century master of scientific adventure, Jules Verne.  But unlike the robust novels for which he is best known—20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in 80 Days, The Mysterious Island, Journey to the Center of the Earth—this haunting tale, “The Storm,” is a surreal supernatural and psychological episode that Hannah Tinti likens to Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.”  The translation from the French is by the anthologist Alberto Manguel, and the reader is the Broadway and film star Tony Roberts.

The program finishes up with a story that is both melodramatic and comical, Ellen Currie’s “Robbed,” read by Christina Pickles.

The musical interlude is from Elmer Bernstein’s score for “The Ten Commandments.” The SELECTED SHORTS theme is Roger Kellaway’s “Come to the Meadow.”

“A Prayer,” by Paul Simms, performed by Chip Zien

“Lamentations of the Father,” by Ian Frazier, performed by Isaiah Sheffer

“The Storm,” by Jules Verne, performed by Tony Roberts

“Robbed,” by Ellen Currie, performed by Christina Pickles

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