Private Lives

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3 segments
Sketch of boy playing war with machine gun.

I ran down the street to play with Tim almost every day…all day long we dodged bullets in rank suburban tangles of elderberry and ailanthus and day-lilies run wild, running doubled over, darting in breathless zigzags from point to point, cover to cover…Donna Tartt, “The Ambush”

Guest host David Sedaris presents two stories about important relationships, and one playful spoof about the lives of celebrity chefs.  

The first story is by Donna Tartt, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Goldfinch. Her other works include the novels The Secret History and The Little Friend.   Her story “The Ambush” was featured in The Best American Short Stories in 2006. In it, Tartt makes a sweet tale out of a sad subject —the death of a dad in Vietnam. His son copes by recruiting the narrator, an 8-year-old girl, for a series of escalating war games. “The Ambush” is also gently satirical, as a rural Southern community meets a brash Brooklyn widow. The reader is SHORTS’ regular Patricia Kalember.

We’ve often featured the fiction of Leonard Michaels—a writers’ writer whose tales frequently include bewildered narrators—like his anti-hero Nachman—who don’t seem to know where they are in their lives. But in “My Father’s Life” Michaels himself is the bewildered narrator, as he pays tribute to a parent who seemed filled with certainties, even as his son struggles with confusion. “My Father’s Life” is read by SELECTED SHORTS’ late founder and host Isaiah Sheffer.

From The Secret Lives of Chefs


To complete this program, a bit of fun: for an evening Symphony Space created with the food magazine Lucky Peach, a playful series of drawings called “The Secret Lives of Chefs,” by graphic artist Lisa Hanawalt, were projected on the screen. The narrative captions were read with gusto by chef Mario Batali. And Hanawalt’s playful imaginings are featured on this page.

From The Secret Lives of Chefs


From The Secret Lives of Chefs


From The Secret Lives of Chefs


From The Secret Lives of Chefs


 “The Ambush” by Donna Tartt performed by Patricia Kalember

“My Father's Life” by Leonard Michaels performed by Isaiah Sheffer

“The Secret Lives of Chefs,” graphics by Lisa Hanawalt, performed by Mario Batali

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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