Selected Shorts: The Propinquity Effect

There’s a wonderful line in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Sphinx” (performed this week on Selected Shorts by Kathleen Widdoes): “..the principle source of error in all human investigations lay in the liability of the understanding to under-rate or to over-value the importance of an object, through mere mis-admeasurement of its propinquity.” The object in this case is the Death’s Head Sphinx Moth, which our narrator, haunted by a Cholera epidemic, mistakes as a monstrous omen of death and ruin. Its propinquity (which can mean both a physical and/or spiritual nearness) makes our narrator almost lose his mind. The other stories featured on Selected Shorts this week also examine different results of the “Propinquity Effect”: Krista MacGruder’s “Not Quite Home Alone,” read by Jacqueline Kim; Miranda July’s “The Shared Patio,” read by Kirsten Vangsness; and Richard Ford’s  “Privacy,” read by Rene Auberjonois. You can listen in on your local public radio station, or download the podcast for free. And the next time someone or something keeps re-appearing in your life, ask yourself: is the universe trying to tell me something? Or: am I mistaking a moth for a monster?