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Inspired by Robert Frank

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Robert Frank’s legendary photographs inspired this selection of tales reflecting the many faces of America.
“You thought everybody in America had a car and a gun; your uncles and aunts and cousins thought so too. Right after you won the American visa lottery, they told you: In a month, you will have a big car. Soon, a big house. But don’t buy a gun like those Americans.”—Chimamanda Ngoti Adichie, “The Thing Around Your Neck.”
Robert Frank’s legendary photographs inspired this selection of tales reflecting the many faces of America.
This special edition of SELECTED SHORTS was inspired by a remarkable exhibition of photography at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. “Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans,” which was on display at the museum between September 22, 2009 and January 3, 2010, recreated Frank’s legendary book The Americans. The book first appeared in 1959, and presented an unvarnished view of American life—poor people, people of color, the achingly lonely, the alienated, the tawdry—that was considered controversial at the time, but which we now recognize as part of the complex texture of life in this country.

The Museum exhibit included a contest sponsored by the Met’s College Group and Symphony Space, in which college students were asked to write short fictions in response to one of ten photographs. The two prize-winning stories are heard on this program, along with other material that seemed to resonate with Frank’s work. We also hear brief commentaries by the Metropolitan Museum’s curator of photography, Jeff Rosenheim.

The first story on the program is a poem by Allen Ginsberg, who was a close friend of Frank’s and appeared in his first film, “Pull My Daisy.” “Sunflower Sutra” makes a dying sunflower into a symbol of America’s decay and regeneration, and is read by SHORTS host Isaiah Sheffer.

The two contest-winning stories follow. First, Elissa Hudson imagines the “back story” to Frank’s “Funeral St. Helena, South Carolina” (1955), in a reading by Broadway star Boyd Gaines. Next, Bianca Galvez gives the bored operator of Frank’s “Elevator, Miami Beach” a robust and irreverent inner life. Condola Rashad reads, in her SELECTED SHORTS debut. Brief interviews with these promising young writers are included.

The second half of the program features scorching looks at America from the perspective of émigrés from Bosnia and Nigeria. First, the protagonist of Aleksander Hemon’s “Good Living,” gets a startling glimpse of American suburban life while selling magazines door to door in a Chicago suburb. Boyd Gaines reads.

And our profile of America concludes with Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Thing Around Your Neck,” read by Condola Rashad, in which a woman from Lagos experiences both the good and bad in American life while working as a waitress in a small Connecticut town.

The musical interlude in this program is “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing,” by Billy Strayhorn, performed by the Rob Brown trio on the album “Round the Bend.” The SELECTED SHORTS theme is Roger Kellaway’s “Come to the Meadow.”

"Sunflower Sutra" by Allen Ginsberg, read by Isaiah Sheffer
"The Death of Jim Taylor" by Elissa Hudson, read by Boyd Gaines
"Barbara Stanwyck, It's Your Time to Shine" by Bianca Galvez, read by Condola Rashad
"Good Living" by Aleksandar Hemon, read by Boyd Gaines
"The Thing Around Your Neck" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, read by Condola Rashad

For additional works featured on SELECTED SHORTS, please visit Symphony Space

We’re interested in your response to these programs. Please comment on this site or visit www.selectedshorts.org

Listener’s choice! On June 9th, 2010, SELECTED SHORTS at Symphony Space in New York will feature stories selected by our nationwide audience. Go to http://www.symphonyspace.org/shorts/audience_picks to submit your suggestions for a published story you think we should read. Then in the spring, you’ll vote for your favorite from among the final contenders.

Comments [4]

From the producers

Thank you for your inquiry about the Robert Frank photographs, and we are sorry for any confusion. This program first aired in 2009, at the time the exhibit was current. The related photographs can now be viewed at a site maintained by the Museum, at this link: http://www.metmuseum.org/special/robert_frank/images.asp

Aug. 08 2011 12:55 PM
Terry from San Luis Obispo, CA

Where is the link to the photographs? You announced during the program that we could see the photos that inspired the stories on the website.

Aug. 07 2011 03:18 PM
Terry from San Luis Obispo, CA

Where is the link to the photographs? You announced during the program that we could see the photos that inspired the stories on the website.

Aug. 06 2011 11:22 PM
Marie Brown from Riverdale, New York

In the past Selected Shorts aired at 4:00PM on Saturday and Sundays on 82AM in NYC. However, it has not been on when I tried to listen last month. What day and time is it currently being aired. I do miss listening whenever I can.

Dear Marie:

Thank you for your note, and we're sorry you missed the announcement of our new schedule. There are still two opportunities to catch up with SELECTED SHORTS programs, on Sundays at 1pm on AM 820, and a repeat broadcast at 10pm on FM 93.9.

Feb. 08 2010 02:12 PM

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