Selected Shorts: Love, Cake, and Kites

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4 segments

If there were a recipe for this program, presented by guest host Parker Posey, it would say “just add happiness, and stir.”  Novelist Michael Chabon is the author of such sprawling and convoluted entertainments as The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (an excerpt will be featured on a forthcoming SELECTED SHORTS radio program) and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, but his short essay “Art of Cake” offers a sweet tribute to his Mom’s cooking. It also recalls his own youthful adventures in the kitchen, from his first solo attempt (“Velvet Crumb Cake”) to his eventual role as the family chef.  Chabon’s most recent novel is “Telegraph Avenue,” but his website says he’s busy cooking potato latkes.   

“Art of Cake” is performed by David Furr.  Recent work includes “The Explorers Club” at Manhattan Theatre Club, “As You Like It” with Shakespeare in the Park, and roles in “Killing Lincoln,” “Elementary,” and “NCIS: Los Angeles.”

“Art of Cake” was such a celebration of home cooking, and the importance of the family legacy of recipes, that we decided to visit two local home-taught cooks, and ask them if Chabon’s memoir struck a chord.  Emily and Melissa Elsen are the owners of the Brooklyn-based pie shop and café Four & Twenty Blackbirds.  They gave us a tour, and talked about how Chabon’s Bisquick box—and his cookbook collection—struck a chord.  The sisters are also the authors of the cookbook The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book: Uncommon Recipes from the Celebrated Brooklyn Pie Shop.

You can hear some of our interview with the Elsens in this week’s program; and you can listen to the complete version below (“Pies Rule!”).

Food isn’t the only thing to cause great hunger.  There’s also love.  Tony-winner Robert Sean Leonard (“The Invention of Love”) is gripped by fatal attractions in Mark Strand’s “True Loves”.  According to the narrator, t he story is “a confession” of the number of times he’s been in love—and in and out of marriage. 

Our program ends with a touching rite-of-passage story by Justin Torres —“Trash Kites." Its teenage protagonists don’t have much, but they are rich in imagination and yearning.  The reader is Colman Domingo, a Tony-Award nominee for his performance in “The Scottsboro Boys”; other theater work includes Athol Fugard’s “Blood Knot,” and “Passing Strange.”  He’s appeared in the films “Lincoln,” “The Butler,” and “Lucky Dog.” 

“Art of Cake,” by Michael Chabon, performed by David Furr

“True Loves,” by Mark Strand, performed by Robert Sean Leonard 

“Trash Kites,” by Justin Torres performed by Colman Domingo 

(This is a repeat broadcast)

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