Selected Shorts from PRI

Selected Shorts from PRI

United States

Podcast by Selected Shorts from PRI


Episode 12 Benjamin Nugent "God"  

Today's story isn't about the eternal being who created and preserves all things, but another kind of god, a god that manages to take down a frat house. The idea for Benjamin Nugent's story “God" came from one of his students.  He explains: “One of my best creative writing students, Megan Kidder, a well mannered girl from rural Maine with dyed black hair, a silver nose ring, and a studded belt dropped by my office and informed me,  ‘I wrote a poem about how this one guy prematurely ejaculated…'” "God" was published in The Paris Review  and host Aparna Nancherla talks to the editor of that magazine, Lorin Stein, in this program.  The story is read by actor Justin Kirk, best known for his roles in the screen adaptation of Angels in America and his years on the TV show Weeds.

Guilty Consciences  

Guest host David Sedaris presents two stories about people who have guilty consciences—or ought to.  In “Juniper Tree,” by Lorrie Moore, a trio of old friends visits a fourth friend—who’s just died.  It’s read by Jill Eikenberry.  And there’s a poison pen at work in a picturesque town, in Shirley Jackson’s “The Possibility of Evil,” read by Dana Ivey.

Against All Odds  

Guest host Jane Kaczmarek presents two stories about people who beat the odds.  In Lauren Groff’s “At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners,” read by Amy Ryan, a sensitive boy grows up in a house full of snakes.  Then, writer Kiese Laymon recalls coming of age in racist Jackson, Mississippi in his memoir “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America,” read by Brandon J. Dirden.

Episode 11 Roxane Gay "How"  

From award-winning American feminist writer, Roxane Gay, we feature a powerful story about feeling trapped and wanting to run away. "How" is from Gay's new story collection Difficult Women which explores women's lives and issues of race, class and sex.  Yes, it's a dark story, but hopeful, too.  Reader Amber Tamblyn, a friend of Gay's, is known for her work on The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Joan of Arcadia and Two and A Half Men.

New Beginnings  

Guest host Cynthia Nixon presents two stories about new beginnings and missed connections.  Philip K. Dick’s classic sci-fi story “Beyond Lies the Wub” asks what it is to be human.  The reader is Denis O’Hare.   And a Russian émigré eagerly awaits the New York City of his dreams in Lara Vapnyar’s “Waiting for the Miracle,” read by David Costabile.

Worst Case Scenarios  

Guest host Hope Davis presents funny four tales about things going wrong.  George Saunders imagines “Lars Farf, Excessively Fearful Father and Husband,” as read by James Naughton.  A kindergartener has a secret in “Charles,” by Shirley Jackson, read by Lois Smith.  The big bang is coming, in “Game,” by Donald Barthelme, read by David Strathairn.  And Isaiah Sheffer offers up “Lamentations of the Father,” by Ian Frazier.

Episode 10 Casper Kelly "Frequently Asked Questions"  

The well known comedic writer, Casper Kelly, brings a hilarious story that starts with a simple premise that quickly goes off the rails. Kelly is well known to Adult Swim fans as the writer and director of the viral video hit, "Too Many Cooks," as well as the shows Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell, and Stroker and Hoop.  "Frequently Asked Questions" is from his short story collection, More Stories About Spaceships and Cancer.  Today's reader, Peter Sagal, is well known to NPR fans from his hosting duties from the popular quiz show, Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me.

Not How I Imagined It: Holiday Special  

Guest host Robert Sean Leonard presents four holiday tales--two merry, and two a little melancholy.  First, David Rakoff's account of playing the father of psychoanalysis in a department store window.  His "Christmas Freud" is read by Jon Glaser.  Next, a middle-aged woman awaits a new love, in Edna O'Brien's "Violets," read by Fionnula Flanagan.  A young man returns in William Maxwell's "Homecoming," read by Keir Dullea.  And Calvin Trillin wants to get out of town in his ditty "Christmas in Qatar," which he reads himself.  

In an Instant  

Guest host Jane Kaczmarek presents two stories about big moments in small lives.  Teju Cole’s Twitter-based faction project “Small Fates 1912” (newspaper headlines rendered as short shorts) is performed by Blythe Danner and Jeffrey Wright.  And old frenemies in Chennai are caught up in disaster in Salman Rushdie’s “In the South,” performed by Michael Stuhlbarg.

Family Ties  

David Sedaris presents the three unconventional stories about family ties.  In Amy Hempel’s “The Dog of the Marriage,” a discarded wife finds abiding love among seeing- eye dogs.  The reader is Joan Allen.  Veronica Geng makes fun of traditional wedding announcements in “Partners”, read by Michael Cerveris, Patricia Kalember, and Isaiah Sheffer.  And William Hurt reads Tobias Wolff’s moving father-son story “Nightingale.” 

A Child’s-Eye View: Stories by John Irving  

Guest host Cynthia Nixon presents excerpts from works by novelist John Irving.  Orphans are cared for by a tough guy and a tough dog in "The Broken Side-view Mirror," read by Yul Vazquez.  A teenager is smitten by a librarian in an excerpt from In One Person, read by Michael C. Hall.  And a philandering children's book author entertains "Unhappy Mothers," in a reading by Heather Burns.

Episode 9 Elliott Holt "Fem Care"  

Annie is a market researcher for the feminine hygiene division of a health & beauty company. While the cool people work on marketing skin creams and cosmetics, she finds out how women feel about menstruation. It's a story complete with humor and humanity, differences and common bonds, and a recognition that sometimes it’s who you run into in the ladies’ room that matters. After the story, Aparna Nancherla talks to fellow writer and comedian Emily Heller about the differences between men and women and how they could both relate to Annie.

Tiny, But Mighty: Stories by Lydia Davis  

Guest host Jane Curtin presents four stories by Lydia Davis, a master of short-form fiction in which real-life situations are subtly altered to produce the funny and strange.  We hear “Can’t and Won’t,” “If at the Wedding (at the Zoo),” “The Party,” and “The Two Davises and the Rug,” read by Davis, Kaneza Schaal, Cristin Milioti, and Dylan Baker.  The final story, “The Egg Race,” is by John Updike.  In it, a high school reunion triggers memories and regrets.  It’s read by Alec Baldwin.

Fateful Encounters  

Guest host Robert Sean Leonard presents three stories about fateful encounters.  Henry Slesar's "The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross" was a classic “Twilight Zone” episode about over-ambition, read by Leonard.  Leonard also reads Eric Schlich's "Head Over Knees," in which a teen's envy turns to empathy.  And Helen Oyeyemi dresses an old fairy tale in new clothes in “Dornicka and the St. Martin's Day Goose," read by Colby Minifie.

Episode 8 Laura Lippman "The Crack Cocaine Diet"  

From the New York Times bestselling mystery author of acclaimed stand-alones  and the award-winning Tess Monaghan series comes a darkly humorous story filled with delightfully unanticipated twists. The reader, This American Life regular Elna Baker, coincidentally brought a very personal angle to the story which she explains in an interview to host Aparna Nancherla. 


Guest host Kate Burton presents two stories about destiny.  A flaky wanna-be actor gets in over his head in Steve Almond's "God Bless America," read by Michael Urie.  And Heather O'Neill re-imagines a horror classic in a lighter vein in "The Isles of Dr. Moreau," read by Valorie Curry.

Politics is Local  

Guest host Kate Burton presents three stories about politics and voting, at home and abroad.  In Chinau Achebe's "The Voter," a wily Nigerian campaign worker has a dilemma.  Arthur French reads.  Humorist Simon Rich turns a world-famous protest into a doomed courtship, in "Occupy Jen's Street," read by Wyatt Cenac.  And a feisty voter gets the last word in“Taking Ms. Kezee to the Polls,” by David Haynes, read by Michael Genét.

Episode 7 Hilary Mantel "The Long QT"  

A story from the author of the best-sellers Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies and her most recent, the controversial and often wicked short story collection The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, in which we found the story you are about to hear. “The Long QT” features a standard, modern-day dilemma that delivers an entirely unexpected sort of fright at the end. Host Aparna Nancherla chats with champion open water swimmer, Lynne Cox, a real life survivor of the disorder Mantel's story is based upon. 

Entering the Twilight Zone  

Guest host Robert Sean Leonard presents a tribute to the classic TV series, “The Twilight Zone,” including two stories that were featured on the show: Price Day’s “Four O’Clock,” read by Zachary Quinto, in which a man with awesome powers knows just how to improve the world.  And “Perchance to Dream,” by Charles Beaumont, in which the lines between sleeping and waking blur.  It’s read by Zach Grenier.  Roald Dahl’s “The Landlady,” is the perfect hostess, thinks the young man who comes to her door.  It’s read by Sam Underwood.

You Might As Well Live: A Dorothy Parker Celebration  

Guest host Jane Curtin presents sassy stories about sassy women from the legendary Dorothy Parker, including “The Sexes,” read by Parker Posey and “The Standard of Living” (two secretaries on a fantasy shopping spree), read by Hope Davis.  A cranky coffee shop employee with amazing luck keeps them company in Robert Coover’s “Waitress,” read by Sonia Manzano.   

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