Selected Shorts: Illusions

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Guest host Neil Gaiman introduces two tales of illusion.

In “Miracle Polish,” by Steven Millhauser, the protagonist buys a gimmicky product from a door-to-door salesman that changes his life—or does it?  Gaiman likens Millhauser’s disconcerting fantasy to the fairy tale Snow White, in which the heroine’s wicked stepmother demands reassurance from her mirror.  In “Miracle Polish,” the phlegmatic narrator slowly becomes more and more obsessed by his own reflection.  Shorts regular Paul Hecht gives this bewildered character a bemused gravity.

The Edwardian writer H.H. Munro wrote under the pen name Saki, and his tales of preposterous goings on in elegant society are often deliciously funny.  But sometimes, says Gaiman, he tips into full-blown horror.  His classic, “The Open Window,” features a beguiling young woman, a hypochondriac guest, and one of the great last lines in comic fiction.  The reader is Tandy Cronyn. 

“Miracle Polish,” by Steven Millhauser, performed by Paul Hecht

“The Open Window,” by Saki, performed by Tandy Cronyn  

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

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 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.