Selected Shorts: Eccentrics

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Guest host Stephen Colbert presents stories with anarchists and oddballs by John Sayles and George Saunders.

On this SELECTED SHORTS show, we have two great stories about eccentrics taking a stand.  It takes a brilliant eccentric like film director John Sayles to come up with an oxymoron like an “anarchists’ convention.” In his “At the Anarchists’ Convention,” fierce old lefties fight everything from the fruit cup to the manager at their annual banquet. The story was published in The Atlantic Monthly, included in The Best American Short Stories 1980 and was the title story in Sayles’ collection The Anarchists’ Convention and Other Stories. The reader is comic actor Jerry Stiller, best known for the role of Frank Costanza on the sitcom “Seinfeld.”  

In our second story, “The Falls,” by George Saunders, two inadequate men are faced with the same crisis. We know them only by their self-absorbed interior monologues, until the moment when each faces a situation that can’t be ignored or fantasized about. Reader Rene Auberjonois hand-picked this one, which first appeared in The New Yorker.

George Saunders is the recipient of a MacArthur "Genius" grant and the author of short story collections including In Persuasion Nation, Pastoralia, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, and Tenth of December: Stories.  He teaches at Syracuse University’s MFA program.

“At the Anarchists Convention,” by John Sayles, performed by Jerry Stiller  

“The Falls,” by George Saunders, performed by Rene Auberjonois

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

Information about the 2014 Stella Kupferberg Short Story Prize Competition is available now:

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