Selected Shorts: Pushing the Limits

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5 segments

Guest host John Lithgow raises the curtain on five comic tales, classic and cutting-edge.

First, New Yorker magazine writer and Algonquin Round Table regular Dorothy Parker describes the hangover from hell in “You Were Perfectly Fine.”   First published in 1929, this hilarious tale of a young man waking up from a bender wears well, and gets new polish from readers David Furr and Aya Cash.  Next, Simon Rich brings his “Saturday Night Live” prankishness to a traditional coming-of-age story—with a twist.  Comic Wyatt Cenac, late of “The Morning Show,” reads.  Alec Baldwin gives a great performance of a James Thurber classic, “The Day the Dam Broke.”  Thurber, another New Yorker contributor, wrote a string of stories for his mock memoir My Life and Hard Times that only slightly exaggerated the winsome strangeness of small town life. 

Simon Rich is back with “Center of the Universe,” a story that imagines what God would have done on the seven days of Creation if his girl friend had complained.  SHORTS’ late host and founder Isaiah Sheffer was the reader.   Finally, more spiritual high jinks from Ron Carlson—could there be a tablecloth of Turin?  Reader Edi Gathegi’s television and film credits include alluring roles in “House,” “Gone Baby Gone,” “Twilight, and “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” but here he makes a very convincing ex-insurance investigator who has seen the light.

“You Were Perfectly Fine,” by Dorothy Parker, performed by Aya Cash and David Furr “Unprotected,” by Simon Rich, performed by Wyatt Cenac

“The Day the Dam Broke,” by James Thurber, performed by Alec Baldwin

“Center of the Universe,” by Simon Rich, performed by Isaiah Sheffer

“The Tablecloth of Turin,” by Ron Carlson, performed by Edi Gathegi

(This is a repeat broadcast)

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