Guest host Cynthia Nixon presents two stories in which people find happiness in unexpected places.
The first story on this program, Michel Faber’s “Vanilla Bright Like Eminem,” is set on a train, where an American family vacationing in Scotland is caught in a moment in time, shot through with glimpses of the future. It was the pick of Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell, for an evening of stories he hosted at Symphony Space. He calls it “an elaborate joke without a punch line” that then becomes a work about something at our core—happiness. SHORTS literary commentator Hannah Tinti says that she’s “impressed by the way Faber uses a pop reference like the rapper Eminem to bring flavor and humor, and then de-constructs this street wordsmith, until Eminem comes to represent something quite elevated and beautiful.”
Michel Faber is author of the bestselling “The Crimson Petal and the White,” and his multi-faceted view of the world may be partly due to his own cosmopolitan circumstances—Dutch by birth, educated in Australia, and resident in Scotland. Faber’s other works include the novels The Courage Consort and The Fire Gospel, and the story collections Some Rain Must Fall and The Fahrenheit Twins.
“Vanilla Bright Like Eminem” is performed by Daniel Gerroll, whose theatre credits include “Scotland Road,” “Translations,” “Plenty,” “The Homecoming,” and “High Society,” and whose television credits include “Seinfeld,” “Sex and the City,” “Law & Order,” and "The Starter Wife.”
The heroine of Roxane Gay’s “North Country” is a young woman from Florida adjusting to the harsh winter in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which she describes as a move to “the edge of nowhere.” She is recovering from a bad love affair, and is slow to trust. “North Country” was included in the 2012 edition of The Best American Short Stories, and its editor, Tom Perotta, says the story is “about how hard it is to let your self be seen.”
“North Country” is performed by Adepero Oduye.
Guest host Cynthia Nixon is a long-time SELECTED SHORTS reader, and talks here with SHORTS literary commentator Hannah Tinti about her work with the series, and the pleasures of reading short fiction, where “your voice is everything.”
“Vanilla Bright Like Eminem,” by Michel Faber, performed by Daniel Gerroll
“North Country,” by Roxane Gay, performed by Adepero Oduye
The SELECTED SHORTS theme is David Peterson's “That's the Deal,” performed by the Deardorf/Peterson Group.