Selected Shorts: A Touch of Magic

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The new season of SELECTED SHORTS continues with a program bringing a touch of magic in two stories from contemporary authors.

Haley Tanner’s “Vaclav the Magnificent” is an excerpt from her first novel, Vaclav and Lena.  We meet them as earnest nine-year-olds preparing a magic act to be performed, in the old vaudeville style (top hat, magic wand, spangling costumes) on the pier at Brighton Beach.  They are both part of the Russian immigrant community of this part of Brooklyn, and Tanner tells SHORTS literary commentator Hannah Tinti, in the interview you can hear below, that she was influenced by the speech rhythms of children to whom she was teaching English. 

The relationship between Vaclav and Lena is touching and delicate:  “It is essential that a magician need not verbally communicate with his assistant. She and he must be so beautifully, so scientifically, so perfectly attuned to each other, like a radio that can hear silent songs floating in the air…”

Real life intrudes on the magic world these two children have created, but not before this boy magician and his “lovely assistant” have utterly charmed us.

Reader Sarah Steele has appeared in the films “Please Give” and “Margaret.”

The second story on this program is by the prodigious T.C. Boyle, whose characters, living on the remote windswept Isle of Unst in the Shetlands, known as the windy-est place on earth, are both figuratively and literally “swept away”.   Boyle tells Hannah Tinti in this interview

that he set out to create a myth, and he succeeds in being, once again, what SHORTS host Isaiah Sheffer calls “bold, original, and audacious.”  “Swept Away” was originally published in The New Yorker

 T.C. Boyle’s novels include World's End, The Road to Wellville, and The Women, and the short-story collections Tooth and Claw, After the Plague, and If the River Was Whiskey.  His most recent work is the novel San Miguel.

“Swept Away” was performed at the Getty Center in Los Angeles by Rene Auberjonois.

 “Vaclav the Magnificent,” by Haley Tanner, performed by Sarah Steele

“Swept Away,” by T.C. Boyle, performed by Rene Auberjonois

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

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

Announcing the 2013 Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize.  Check this link for details.