Selected Shorts: Isaiah Sheffer Remembered

SELECTED SHORTS’ late host and creator Isaiah Sheffer died last November, and we’re marking the occasion with a repeat of this special program celebrating his work. It’s hosted by writer Colum McCann.

Isaiah Sheffer presided over SELECTED SHORTS for nearly thirty years, curating a wide range of classic and contemporary fiction from all over the world.  “Stories were our glue, Isaiah knew that,” says McCann.  “They had to be good enough to break your heart, and keen enough to mend it.  They had to be intimate enough to be local, and adventurous enough to go everywhere.”

Sheffer went everywhere with our first story, performing T.C. Boyle’s parody of old-time Lassie movies, “Heart of a Champion,” for audiences all over the country and on the air.  As a performer, he had a particular fondness for stories that pushed reality right over the edge into something more, and this is a perfect example.

Another favorite author was Ian Frazier, the humorist and frequent contributor to The New Yorker.  On this program we feature his delicately transgressive “Dating Your Mom,” and his mock Biblical account of a hapless suburban Dad trying to control his children’s eating habits, “Lamentations of the Father.”

Funny as he was, Sheffer could also give a nuanced read of more poignant stories, like Allan Gurganus’ “It Had Wings,” in which an elderly widow finds an injured angel in her garden.

These were just some of the dozens of stories that Isaiah Sheffer brought to life over the years.  “Death takes away a lot,” says McCann, “but it can never take away our stories.  We miss him already, but he’s still here, in his stories, in his wisdom, and here in the way he connected us together.”   Among those Isaiah connected were the many writers and actors who became part of the SELECTED SHORTS family.  We hear brief tributes from Roy Blount, Jr., T.C. Boyle, Jane Curtin, and Sonia Manzano.

“Heart of a Champion,” by T.C. Boyle

“Dating Your Mom,” by Ian Frazier

“Lamentations of the Father,” by Ian Frazier

“It Had Wings,” by Allan Gurganus

The SELECTED SHORTS theme is David Peterson's “That's the Deal,” performed by the Deardorf/Peterson Group.


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And for more thoughts on the stories in SHORTS, check out literary commentator Hannah Tinti’s site at