Selected Shorts: What Would You Do?

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Guest host David Sedaris presents three stories about difficult choices.

Amy Hempel’s “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried,” is about life and death, but you wouldn’t know it at first, as two women trade hilarious zingers and rebuild an old friendship.  Sedaris calls the story “beautifully devastating.” Amy Hempel’s works include At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom, Tumble Home, The Dog of the Marriage, and The Collected Stories.  She is the recipient of the Rea Award for the Short Story (2008) and the PEN/Malamud Award for Short Fiction (2009).  She teaches at Harvard University and Bennington College.  The reader is Mary Beth Hurt. 

Our second story is Tobias Wolff’s “The Night in Question,” a moral twister in which a brother in recovery preaches a sermon about ethical choices to his sister, and they disagree about the right thing to do.  Ultimately, it’s a tale that tries to measure love; Sedaris says Wolff sets “the gold standard for honesty.”  The reader is Lou Antonio.  Wolff is the author of the short story collections In the Garden of the North American Martyrs, The Night in Question, from which this story comes, and Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories, as well as the memoirs This Boy’s Life, and In Pharaoh’s Army, among other works. 

Among his awards are the Rea Award for the Short Story, the O. Henry Award, and The Story Prize for Our Story Begins, for which there is an audio book edition.

On a lighter note, the narcissistic narrator of Frank Gannon’s “I Know What I’m Doing About All the Attention I’ve Been Getting,” is having a wardrobe crisis, and wants you to feel his pain.  Sedaris gives this character just the right touch of smug self-absorption.  Who else could pull off a line like, “you must be completely unaware of my socks”?  Gannon is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker.

“In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried,” by Amy Hempel, performed by Mary Beth Hurt

“The Night in Question,” by Tobias Wolff, performed by Lou Antonio 

“I Know What I'm Doing About All the Attention I've Been Getting,” by Frank Gannon, performed by David Sedaris

 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

We’re interested in your response to these programs.  Please comment on this site or visit

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