Selected Shorts – Donna Tartt, Etgar Keret and Evelyn Waugh

Selected Shorts is one among the handful of podcasts that I’ve been listening to regularly of late.

“It’s story time for adults,” says their website, “with PRI’s award-winning series of short fiction read by the stars of stage and screen. Recorded live at Peter Norton Symphony Space in NYC and on tour. A co-production of Symphony Space and WNYC Radio.”

I’m not quite sure where I picked up on it, but the programming has been good enough to encourage me to set aside an hour every week to sit and listen to it.

The first episode which caught my attention was one where Patricia Kalember, a regular reader at Selected Shorts, read Donna Tartt’s short story Ambush. The story, a bittersweet tale about the friendship of a little boy and girl in the backdrop of the Vietnam war, had been featured in the 2006 Best American Short Stories. Although a stranger to the various accents, I was engrossed at the remarkable ease with which Ms. Kalember switched between them and narrated this beautiful tale. You can hear the episode here. (Needless to add, I have since added Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize winning Goldfinch to my to-read list)

But the episode which really nailed the deal for me was the one featuring none other than Mr. Spock himself! Leonard Nimoy, in an episode titled An Alien and a Gentleman, reads Etgar Keret’s Good Intentions, followed by Evelyn Waugh’s The Man Who Liked Dickens. In the former, Nimoy speaks in the voice of the narrator, a hitman who has been contracted to kill the only man who was ever kind to him. In the latter, he is chilling as the tribal chief who wishes to keep reading Dickens’ works over and over again. I won’t spoil the fun for you; listen to the episode here.

An additional clincher is that these episodes are recorded live, and you can hear the audience ‘participate’ in the reading through their reactions. Close your eyes as you listen to the podcast, and you are transported as an audience member of the Peter Norton Symphony Space in New York.

Prior to Selected Shorts, I hadn’t read any of these stories and also hadn’t heard about these authors. As I subscribed to the podcast, I smiled as I realised that books were reinventing themselves in the digital age. Survival of the fittest, as they say.