Selected Shorts: Things Are Not What They Seem

Audio not yet available
Email a Friend

Shame, longing, and passion lie beneath the surface lives of the characters in these three stories. 


An Irish village with a secret, a genteel woman cloaking her feelings, and powerful emotions displaced onto an old piece of furniture.  The multi-faceted author Colm Toibin joins SHORTS literary commentator Hannan Tinti to talk about three stories.

Toibin’s most recent book is The Testament of Mary and his short story collections include The Empty Family, and Mothers and Sons. 

First, his own “A Priest in the Family.”  The title, he tells us, comes from an old Irish axiom—to be respectable you needed “A well in the yard; a bull in the field; and a
priest in the family.”  In this story of respectability betrayed, 80-year old Molly comes to realize that her own community is hiding an enormity from her.  The reader is SHORTS regular Lois Smith , who has appeared most recently on stage in Sam Shepard’s “Heartless,” and in the movie” The Odd Life of Timothy Green.”   

Next, James Salter’s classic “Dusk,” which Toibin says is a wonderful example of a story told in terms of all that is left unsaid.  Its central character Mrs. Chandler faces an emotional abyss.  She is rendered by Amy Ryan, who has had recurring television roles on “In Treatment,” “The Wire,” and “The Office.” 

Last, an economical tale from J. Robert Lennon, who is the author of the story collection, Pieces For the Left Hand, and seven novels, including Mailman, Castle, and the recently released Familiar.

In  “The Bureau” by J. Robert Lennon, a chance discovery at an estate sale leads to an obsession, revealing how our own desires can sometimes make us deceive even ourselves.  The story is read by Kirsten Vangsness, best known as Penelope Garcia on the television show “Criminal Minds.”

“A Priest in the Family,” by Colm Toibin, performed by Lois Smith

“Dusk,” by James Salter, performed by Amy Ryan 

“The Bureau,” by J. Robert Lennon, performed by Kirsten Vangsness 

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.

This Monday, December 17th, from 5 to 7pm, Symphony Space and the family of Isaiah Sheffer will pay tribute to Isaiah in a memorial service held at Symphony Space and streamed live for anyone who wishes to attend remotely.  Please visit symphonyspace dot org on Monday at 5pm to link to the live feed and hear friends and family tell stories, share laughs, and celebrate the creative and joyful life of Isaiah Sheffer.