Selected Shorts: Remembering Isaiah Sheffer

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

SELECTED SHORTS celebrates its late host and creator Isaiah Sheffer in this special program hosted by Colum McCann. 

Isaiah Sheffer presided over SELECTED SHORTS for nearly thirty years, curating a wide range of classic and contemporary fiction from all over the world.  “Stories were our glue, Isaiah knew that,” says McCann.  “They had to be good enough to break your heart, and keen enough to mend it.  They had to be intimate enough to be local, and adventurous enough to go everywhere.”

Sheffer went everywhere with our first story, performing T.C. Boyle’s parody of old-time Lassie movies, “Heart of a Champion,” for audiences all over the country and on the air.  As a performer, he had a particular fondness for stories that pushed reality right over the edge into something more, and this is a perfect example.

Another favorite author was Ian Frazier, the humorist and frequent contributor to The New Yorker.  On this program we feature his delicately transgressive “Dating Your Mom,” and his mock Biblical account of a hapless suburban Dad trying to control his children’s eating habits, “Lamentations of the Father.”

Funny as he was, Sheffer could also give a nuanced read of more poignant stories, like Allan Gurganus’ “It Had Wings,” in which an elderly widow finds an injured angel in her garden.

These were just some of the dozens of stories that Isaiah Sheffer brought to life over the years.  “Death takes away a lot,” says McCann, “but it can never take away our stories.  We miss him already, but he’s still here, in his stories, in his wisdom, and here in the way he connected us together.”   Among those Isaiah connected were the many writers and actors who became part of the SELECTED SHORTS family.  We hear brief tributes from Roy Blount, Jr., T.C. Boyle, Jane Curtin, and Sonia Manzano.

“Heart of a Champion,” by T.C. Boyle

“Dating Your Mom,” by Ian Frazier

“Lamentations of the Father,” by Ian Frazier

“It Had Wings,” by Allan Gurganus


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.

Comments [5]

Pam Stone from Dallas, Texas

All of Dallas will miss Isaiah Sheffer! His rich, warm voice filled the theater at the Dallas Museum of Arts, bringing the finest artists and authors to our stage. We hope Arts and Letters Live will continue. The magic of literature comes alive through these readings.

Feb. 06 2013 12:37 PM
Sima Godfrey from Vancouver, Canada

When I first learned of Isaiah Sheffer's passing, I had to stop everything I was doing. He has been my constant weekend companion for years. My long Sunday Ipod walks will never be the same without him at my side. I am so grateful for all recorded memories of his voice. Thank you, Isaiah.

Dec. 02 2012 02:42 PM
Vic from .

I first heard of Isaiah Sheffer's passing while listening to Selected Shorts in mid-broadcast when his name was said in the past tense...
How can this be...?
& What will become of, Bloom's Day on Broadway ?
As the void sets in ( )

Nov. 30 2012 03:32 AM
Katherine from Tulsa, OK

Just hearing his voice signing off with sponsorship acknowledgements tore me up last night. Thank you for a lovely program. It included my favorite stories that could only be delivered by the unique voice of Mr. Sheffer, full of wit, warmth and love. I will miss him.

Nov. 29 2012 09:33 AM
Illene Burack from New York City

Isaiah was the consumate Yiddishist: Isaiah charmed and welcomed one and all with his warmth and especially his humor. Isaiah raised us to his own highest standards as he joked, cajoled and mocked us into giving any
small amount in his heartfelt pleas for pennies to keep Symphony Space
afloat in the early lean years.
Isaiah didn't know my name,as I knew his, but I always called him my friend. The Isaiah legacy, Ulysses readings at Symphony Space will
live forever.
Dear Isaiah, rest in peace.

Nov. 25 2012 10:41 PM

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