Selected Shorts: Milestones

Milestones are markers that tell you how far it is from where you’ve come, and how far it is to where you’re going. I’ve been on Selected Shorts for about a year now, and this week’s episode marks where it all began. Back in 2010, the program recorded a story of mine, “Milestones,” read by the amazing Laurie Anderson. Isaiah and Kathy Minton, the producer of Selected Shorts, invited me to WNYC to do an interview about the piece and the rest, I suppose, is history–I was invited to come on board as the show’s literary commentator. I’d written “Milestones” for an anthology, Lit Riffs, which asked authors to contribute pieces of fiction based on music. My story was inspired by one one of my favorite albums, Milestones by Miles Davis. To me the title song, “Milestones,” captures more than any other what it’s like to live in New York–the energy, the rhythm, and the way a person can be separate and then weave back into the crowd–a sense of loneliness as well as belonging. I decided to break the song apart and follow its structure. When the chorus came through, I wrote about a bustling, city street; when John Coltrane and Miles Davis did their solos, I went into the interior lives and memories of the characters. I also used the names of all the musicians in the story: Miles Davis, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and “Philly” Joe Jones.  So listen in on WNYC, your local radio station or on podcast to hear this story of music and memory and also, a milestone: the first recording I ever did with Isaiah Sheffer. In addition, you’ll get to hear “Wunderkind” by Carson McCullers, read by Kelli O’Hara, which focuses on another great piece of music: Ludwig von Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 12. And if you’ve never had the pleasure of listening  “Milestones,” click on the link below. Hopefully you will hear bits and pieces reflected in the words.


  1. I listened to Milestones yesterday and was completely blown away. What a great story. Is it available on the web? I’d love to reprint it in the monthly arts and lit online journal I publish – Drash Pit. The theme for our upcoming issue is “counted” and I think the syncopation of your piece is a great example of how heeding both discordant beats and rhythmic counts can turn a story into a masterpiece.

    1. Dear Neena,

      Thanks for writing in. But the story isn’t available online, only in print. You can find it in the anthology Lit Riffs. Glad you enjoyed it!


  2. Playing catch up on the podcasts…What a great story. I would have preferred you to read it yourself but I know that unless you are Gaiman or possibly Miranda July it’s against Selected Shorts protocol 🙂 The reader reminds me if Carl Sagan was a female narrator, letting each…word…land.

    After listening to you discuss the story at the end -which i was surprised to find made me very emotional- I am now listening it for the second time. It is a joy to at last be able to enjoy a story of yours. “It reached out to welcome him, wider…wider, until he could see nothing else” really stuck with me and I just wanted to take the time to let you know, from a writer who has been struggling to get pen to paper after a very prolific 2011, that you helped me tremendously in a way I’m not even sure I can articulate just yet. So thank you, Ms Tinti.

    1. Dear Joel:

      Thanks so much for taking the time to write in. This comment made my day!

      Hope the writing continues to flourish.


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