Selected Shorts: True Selves/Hidden Selves

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Guest host BD Wong introduces three stories about identity.

First, Karen Russell’s “Reeling for the Empire,”an eerie take on the issue of exploited workers.  It is set during the Meiji era in Japan, when the country began to absorb Western industrial practices.  It is a tale of transmogrification, but also of self-discovery.  In the interview with Juno Diaz below, Russell discusses her story, commenting,   “The real core for me was, does regret ever have utility? Can you use regret to tell a new kind of story? 

Russell is the author of St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and the novel, Swamplandia!  Her work has appeared in The Best American Short Stories, Conjunctions, Granta, The New Yorker, and Zoetrope.  

“Reeling for the Empire” is from Russell’s celebrated new collection, Vampires in the Lemon Grove. It is read by Kaneza Schall, who has performed with Elevator Repair Service and the Wooster Group.

In the second story on this program, Ben Loory’s “The Dodo,” the protagonist knows exactly who he is, even if no one believes him. Reader Andre Holland’s stage credits include “Blue Door,” “Wig Out,” and “The Whipping Man.”  He is currently starring in television comedy “1600 Penn.”

In the first two stories on this program, the main characters discover and reveal their true selves, but in Deborah Willis’s provocative tale “The Secretary,” an executive is strangely drawn to his glamorous but elusive assistant, who reveals nothing of herself.

Canadian-born Willis's work has appeared in the Bridport Prize Anthology, Event, and Grain, and she was a winner of PRISM International's annual fiction prize. She is the author of the collection, Vanishing and Other Stories, which was published by Harper Perennial and nominated for a Governor General's Award.  She currently works as a bookseller in Victoria, Canada.

Reader Arian Moayed received a Theater World Award and was nominated for Tony and Drama Desk awards for his portrayal of Musa in “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.”  He is a co-founder and artistic director of the experimental theatre company Waterwell.

“Reeling for the Empire,” Karen Russell, performed by Kaneza Schall

“The Dodo,” by Ben Loory, performed by Andre Holland

“The Secretary,” by Deborah Willis, performed by Arian Moayed

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



Hannah Tinti and B.D. Wong

Comments [4]

From the Producers

Unfortunately, due to licensing restrictions, we are able to offer audio only for a limited period after the first broadcast of a program. Please check our website,, to see if this story is featured in a CD compilation, and for information about where to find it in print.

Jul. 01 2013 10:19 AM
dan from sf, ca

does anyone know where you can listen to this story
“Reeling for the Empire,” Karen Russell, performed by Kaneza Schall?
i cannot find it anywhere!!
the store is brilliant, so of course i want to hear it read...

Jun. 25 2013 07:08 PM

From the Producers

Thanks so much, Scarlett, for your note; we think Karen is quite extraordinary too, and feel honored to have a chance to let her work be heard, as well as read.

Mar. 18 2013 08:58 AM
Scarlett from nj

I was driving home from work at about 10pm. I hear this lovely woman read this terrifying story with such conviction, and I sit in my driveway till the story is finished. I take a shower, register for fall classes, then I lay beside my laptop and listen to the story again. I read great comedy. however, I haven't felt so compelled to return to such an unnerving story like this in a while. The art of Russel's language is irresistible, this particular story conjured up so much thought and artistic inspiration. Great choice in short story.

Mar. 18 2013 01:05 AM

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