Selected Shorts: A Richard Ford Odyssey

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This week, a touching post-Katrina story of family and friendship by Richard Ford.

This entire program, hosted by BD Wong, is devoted to Richard Ford’s “Leaving for Kenosha.” The story, set in post-Katrina New Orleans, involves two families and probes delicately at what it takes to cross social and racial barriers, and what events make them both irrelevant and painfully relevant.  We follow a moderately successful lawyer during a day in which his young daughter asks him to take her to the home of a black classmate whose family is moving from a storm-devastated neighborhood to another state.  The trip across town, interrupted by bemused exchanges with his daughter and other characters, becomes a small odyssey through his own life.

“Leaving for Kenosha” was performed at Symphony Space during an evening in which Ford was the special guest, and he talked about the origins of the story to the live audience.  Interestingly, “Kenosha” had its start in audio; Ford drove around the recovering city in a rented car, with a tape recorder “and read the things I saw into it and my reactions to them, imagining that I’d write an essay about regeneration and about strife overcome, and maybe about race.”  Instead, he went back to Maine, and what emerged was a short story, later published in The New Yorker.  “That kind of genre switch had never happened to me before,” he commented.

Ford also talked about the future of the short story, and his own quizzical relationship to the form.  Listen to his remarks here:

Richard Ford is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sportswriter, as well as Independence Day and The Lay of the Land.  His short story collections include Rock Springs, A Multitude of Sins, and Women with Men.  His most recent novel is Canada.

The reader of “Leaving for Kenosha” is David Strathairn, whose films include “Passion Fish,” “The River,” “Goodnight, and Good Luck” (in an award-winning performance as broadcast great Edward R. Murrow), and most recently, Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.”  On stage he has appeared in Harold Pinter’s “The Birthday Party” and “Mountain Language,” Tom Stoppard’s “Hapgood,” “Hannah and Martin,” and “The Heiress.”

“Leaving for Kenosha” by Richard Ford, performed by David Strathairn

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