Selected Shorts: Ghosts and Angels

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Guest host Robert Sean Leonard presents three slightly magical tales and one true love story.

James Thurber’s mock memoir My Life and Hard Times contains many outlandish tales purporting to be the chronicle of his family life.  Take, for example, “The Night the Ghost Got In,” in which sneaky footsteps cause a commotion in the household.  SELECTED SHORTS late host and founder Isaiah Sheffer had fun with this one. 

Next, a hallmark Alice Hoffman piece, in which it’s not quite clear what exactly is causing the series of domestic mishaps that plague a lonely woman, but it is clear that change is in the air. Tony Award-winner Joanna Gleason reads. 

The elderly widow in Allan Gurganus’s “It Had Wings,” is lonely too—and in her case, change is literally in the air, as she looks out her kitchen window in time to see an angel plummet into her garden.  Marian Seldes performs this lovely tale of mutual rescue.  

Finally, singer Audra McDonald, also a Tony winner in multiple roles, is a strong-willed woman who won’t take a “Secondhand Man,” in a love story by former United States poet laureate Rita Dove.

“The Night the Ghost Got In,” by James Thurber, performed by Isaiah Sheffer

“Examining the Evidence,” by Alice Hoffman, performed by Joanna Gleason

“It Had Wings,” by Allan Gurganus, performed by Marian Seldes

“Secondhand Man,” by Rita Dove performed by Audra McDonald

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