Selected Shorts: Odd Couples

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Guest host Cynthia Nixon presents stories by two American masters that feature improbable relationships.

Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” is an unexpectedly humorous work by this American master of spare realism.  In James Naughton’s engaging reading, we meet a bewildered husband who is bemused, and a little nervous, when his wife’s blind friend comes to spend the night.  But in the course of a long evening, he forges his own bond with the man.  “Cathedral” is the title story of one of Carver’s collections of short fiction.  The others are Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?, Furious Seasons, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, and Elephant.  The influential Carver shaped the styles, and nurtured the careers, of many contemporary writers.

Only the incorrigible T.C. Boyle could imagine taking the 18th-century mistress of romantic comic fiction, Jane Austen, on a date.  And not just any date, but one involving a naughty film, a disco, and a duel.  SELECTED SHORTS’ late founder and host Isaiah Sheffer loved Boyle’s outrageous conceits, and never passed up an opportunity to read one of his stories.  We hear him in “Dating Jane Austen.”

The prodigious Boyle is the author of over a dozen novels—most recently San Miguel—and his short story output—many treasured on this series—tops 100.

“Cathedral,” by Raymond Carver, performed by James Naughton

“I Dated Jane Austen,” by TC Boyle, performed by Isaiah Sheffer

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