Past and Future

Email a Friend
2 segments
British train

Don, son of people no longer living, husband of Alice, father of Drew and Aleesha, is very, very close to experiencing the happiest moment of his life. —Michel Faber, “Vanilla Bright Like Eminem.”

The first story on this program, Michel Faber’s “Vanilla Bright Like Eminem,” is set on a train, where an American family vacationing in Scotland is caught in a moment in time, shot through with glimpses of the future. It was the pick of Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell, for an evening of stories he hosted at Symphony Space. He calls it “an elaborate joke without a punch line” that then becomes a work about something at our core—happiness. The writer Hannah Tinti, who partners with guest host Cynthia Nixon here, says that she’s “impressed by the way Faber uses a pop reference like the rapper Eminem to bring flavor and humor, and then de-constructs this street wordsmith, until Eminem comes to represent something quite elevated and beautiful.”

Michel Faber is author of the bestselling “The Crimson Petal and the White,” and his multi-faceted view of the world may be partly due to his own cosmopolitan circumstances—Dutch by birth, educated in Australia, and resident in Scotland. Faber’s other works include the novels The Courage Consort and The Fire Gospel, and the story collections Some Rain Must Fall and The Fahrenheit Twins.

“Vanilla Bright Like Eminem” is performed by Daniel Gerroll, whose theatre credits include “Scotland Road,” “Translations,” “Plenty,” “The Homecoming,” and “High Society,” and whose television credits include “Seinfeld,” “Sex and the City,” “Law & Order,” and "The Starter Wife.”

The heroine of Roxane Gay’s “North Country” is a young woman from Florida adjusting to the harsh winter in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which she describes as a move to “the edge of nowhere.” She is recovering from a bad love affair, and is slow to trust. “North Country” was included in the 2012 edition of The Best American Short Stories, and its editor, Tom Perotta, says the story is “about how hard it is to let your self be seen.” “North Country” is performed by Adepero Oduye.

Also featured: Cynthia Nixon in conversation with Hannah Tinti about her work with the SELECTED SHORTS and the pleasures of reading short fiction, where “your voice is everything.”

“Vanilla Bright Like Eminem,” by Michel Faber, performed by Daniel Gerroll

“North Country,” by Roxane Gay, performed by Adepero Oduye


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