Selected Shorts: Romantic Disasters

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Romantic confusion and comic advice for the lovelorn are offered in the five stories on this program.

First, Patricia Marx tracks a difficult courtship in “Starting from Happy” in an excerpt from her illustrated novel.  The reader is SHORTS’ go-to girl for wacky, Kirsten Vangsness.   If the characters in the first Marx piece are starting from happy, things have ended badly for her second pair.  We know this because our guide, Debby, is taking us on an “Audio Tour,” of her ex-boyfriend’s apartment. (“You are standing in Todd Niesle’s foyer.  The faux faux-marble table on your right is attributed to Todd Niesle’s mother, circa last Christmas.  It’s a fine example of a piece that I, Debby, do not like.”)  Marx is a staff writer for The New Yorker, and the story is read by Anna Chlumsky, who starred in the rite-of-passage films “My Girl” and “My Girl 2.”  She currently has a featured role on “Veep,” and other television credits include “White Collar” and “Law and Order: SVU.”

In between these two tales, Simon Rich re-imagines the “Occupy” movement as a love triangle.  A frustrated activist channels his frustration with the “fat cats” of Wall Street into an equal frustration with the unattainable girl he’s had a crush on since their first day of college.  Rich is a former staff writer for “Saturday Night Live,” and his books include Elliot Allagash What in God's Name, and Last Girlfriend on Earth, which includes “Occupy Jen’s Street.”  The reader is comedian Wyatt Cenac, formerly of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

Coaching a “Swim Team” is a cure for a broken heart in Miranda July’s story, read by guest host Parker Posey.  July is a writer, filmmaker and performance artist whose books include No One Belongs Here More than You, Corpse Tale, and It Chooses You.  

Finally, man is confounded by a confident woman in Aimee Bender’s “The Meeting,” read by Kate Burton at the Boston University Theatre in Boston, presented by the Huntington Theatre Company and Jonathan Reinis Productions.   Bender is the author of the books The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, An Invisible Sign of My Own, Willful Creatures, and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake among other works. 

Reader Kate Burton’s many credits include her critically acclaimed performance in Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler,” and roles in the television series “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal.”  She recently played the lead in Tom Stoppard’s “Hapgood” at the Williamstown Theater Festival.

“Starting from Happy,” by Patricia Marx performed by Kirsten Vangsness

“Occupy Jen Street,” by Simon Rich, performed by Wyatt Cenac

“Audio Tour,” by Patricia Marx performed by Anna Chlumsky

The Swim Team,” by Miranda July, performed by Parker Posey

“The Meeting,” by Aimee Bender, performed by Kate Burton

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