Selected Shorts: Convergence

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

David Sedaris presents a Flannery O’Connor classic, and a bittersweet road story by Amy Hempel.

On this program, two stories about convergence.   In Flannery O’Connor’s classic “Everything that Rises Must Converge” two cultures collide, and so do mother and son.  The title is taken from an essay by a Jesuit priest, Pierre Chardin and refers, perhaps ironically, to the ascension of Christ.  It is masterful portrait of a shabby genteel woman, unable to cope with racial integration in the South (the story was published in 1965), and teaches harsh lessons about pride and humility. 

It is also, says host David Sedaris, “a great story about family,” one that impressed him so much when he first heard this reading by Estelle Parsons, that he taped it off his car radio “and played it over and over and over.”  

Flannery O’Connor’s other works include the novels Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away and the short story collections A Good Man Is Hard to Find, Everything That Rises Must Converge, and The Complete Stories, for which she posthumously won the National Book Award.

“Jesus is Waiting” has only oblique religious implications, in this characteristically serio-comic tale of failed love and self-discovery by Amy Hempel.  It’s the title of a recording by the Reverend Al Green, given to the narrator by “the man who won’t speak to me.”  She’s taken to the road to get away from herself, but, as she observes ruefully:  “The geographic cure, these bouts of driving, with the age-old bit built in: ‘Wherever you go, there you are.’”  The reader is Mary Stuart Masterson.

Amy Hempel’s works include At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom, Tumble Home, The Dog of the Marriage, and The Collected Stories.  She is the recipient of the Rea Award for the Short Story (2008) and the PEN/Malamud Award for Short Fiction (2009).  She teaches at Harvard University and Bennington College.

“Everything that Rises Must Converge.” by Flannery O’Connor, performed by Estelle Parsons

“Jesus is Waiting,” by Amy Hempel, performed by Mary Stuart Masterson

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



David Sedaris

Comments [3]


Roger: Take some time off work, please. But I admit I don't know what that means for writers, though.

Mark: Similar experience here, except I was in a Costco parking lot. I switched to my ipod nano and walked around Costco smiling like a fool. When it ended I whooped and exclaimed "Bravo!" in front of people lining up for hot dogs. lol The simple pleasures of life. I lived with my Asian Tiger mom and could relate to every word.

-Jeanie C.

May. 29 2013 03:01 PM
Roger Witherspoon from Cortlandt Manor, NY

Sedaris began tonight's story with a caution that the racist views of the main character may offend some listeners. That was an understatement. While her view that Blacks were better off under slavery has its modern champion in media darling and open bigot Pat Buchanan, one still has to wonder why David Sedaris thought it important to air such vile views under the guise of literature.
It is hard to believe that, with a limited amount of air time, this was the only "important" or well written short story available. No. I'm not advocating censorship -- a typical characterization of closed-minded racists. The story is publicly available and those who want that sort of stuff can buy it. As a professional writer, I would champion the author's right to do so.
But why is it that Sedaris felt this story with its racist underpinnings was so valuable that blacks who regularly listen to WNYC or Selected Shorts should simply leave the room so white listeners could enjoy a private racist chat? Would he have been so cavalier if the main character was a run of the mill Nazi, who casually lamented that Hitler didn't finish the job and rid the world of big-nosed Jews? Would You have so cavalierly said Jews should leave the room so everyone else could enjoy what Sedaris views as a "work of art?"
I once had a lengthy interview with William Shockley, a Nobel laureate and the nation's leading proponent of eugenics -- currently in vogue at the Heritage Foundation -- a theory of racial superiority which he got from studying Nazi science prior and during World War II. Shockley said it was a shame that the science -- which he felt was first rate -- was discarded because the manner in which it was conducted was inhumane. How does that differ from Sedaris' view that racist views are ok to share on today's radio as long as they are encompassed in good literature?
I found your choice of stories tonight to be reprehensible.
Roger Witherspoon, author
"Martin Luther King, JR... to the Mountaintop"

May. 26 2013 11:03 PM
Mark Swoyer from WGBH

As the Flannery O'Connor story began, I was pulling up to the airport arrivals-gate to pick up my wife. When she slid into the seat, I pointed to the radio and in listening for just five seconds she was stilled by the story and the voice of the performer. The story lasted all the way home. We listened in silence. The story ended as we pulled into our driveway. I turned off the engine and said, " was the trip?"

If this ain't radio art, what is? An experience like this is what radio is for. Thank you ever so much. And David Sedaris is's about family.

May. 26 2013 08:51 PM

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