Selected Shorts: High Society

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Guest host Cynthia Nixon introduces two tales of avarice and pretension among the well-heeled and well-born.

High society and high comedy unite these tales by Tom Wolfe and Edith Wharton.  First up, a selection from Tom Wolfe’s classic 1980s Wall Street satire, The Bonfire of the Vanities.  The 1987 novel was conceived by Wolfe as a panoramic look at New York City during a period of oblivious affluence, and began as a serial work in “Rolling Stone.”  In the excerpt heard here, wealthy bond trader and self-proclaimed “Master of the Universe” Sherman McCoy sets off for work. 

The reader is Danny Burstein, who won the 2012 Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical, for his performance in the Broadway revival of “Follies” and whose film and television work includes “Transamerica,” “Deception” and the recurring role of Lolly Steinman in "Boardwalk Empire".

Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Edith Wharton wrote elegantly and devilishly about her subjects—rich Americans living at home and abroad.  In “Xingu,” a fabulous shaggy dog tale, she skewers the upper-crust “ladies who lunch,” whom she describes scathingly as “pursuing Culture in bands, as if it were dangerous to meet alone.”

“Xingu” is performed by the Emmy Award-winning television actor and SHORTS regular Christina Pickles, who always gets the funny stories. 

“Bonfire of the Vanities,” excerpt by Tom Wolfe, performed by Danny Burstein

“Xingu,” Edith Wharton, performed by Christina Pickles

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.