Selected Shorts: One Story

Last spring, Selected Shorts hosted a gala evening to celebrate One Story’s 10th Anniversary. Four One Story authors, Seth Fried, L.Annette Binder, Tom Barbash and Jim Shepard came to New York City and introduced their stories to an eager audience, then listened in while four outstanding actors performed their pieces live on stage. When One Story’s Publisher Maribeth Batcha and I launched One Story back in 2002, we wanted to create a new kind of magazine, one that would support up and coming authors, create a community of readers, and celebrate the creative form of the short story by publishing authors one at a time. Since then, One Story has published 180 authors from all over the world and become one of the most-read literary magazines in the country.

The first story in this week’s program is “Nephilim,” L. Annette Binder’s heart-rending portrait of a lonely woman with gigantism. “Nephilim” was published in One Story in the fall of 2010 and went on to win a Pushcart Prize. According to Genesis, the Nephilim were the offspring of fallen angels and ordinary human women. They were giants, and supposedly so hungry, that they ate everything, and nearly destroyed the earth. But there are different kinds of hunger, and Freda, the giantess in this story, still hungers for life, even as her condition keeps her from experiencing it. L. Annette Binder captures that longing so well—you can feel Freda’s emotional aching, along with the physical aching in her bones. Rise, L.Annette Binder’s first collection of short stories, includes “Nephilim,” which is performed on stage by Colby Minifie.

Author Tom Barbash re-imagines his childhood home in “Ballon Night,” which was published by One Story in July 2007. The story is set on the Upper West Side of Manhattan the night before the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, when all of the giant balloons are inflated.  Barbash grew up on this “Balloon Block,” and has fun putting a dark spin on the ritual of “Balloon Parties.” The story captures how holiday parties–where people from your past and present come together–can sometimes represent your entire life.  “Balloon Night” will appear in a new collection by Barbash, forthcoming in 2013. Tonight, it is read by Tom Cavanagh.

Our last story is by short story master Jim Shepard. “Cretan Love Song” slices through time to 1600 B.C., and the moment when the volcanic island of Thera erupts and eclipses Minoan civilization, changing the landscape of the world forever. It’s an extraordinary, and extraordinarily short piece. Yet in those few pages Jim Shepard captures this historical moment perfectly, while plunging deep into its emotional center by focusing on one man’s final moments. Jim also graciously stepped in to be my co-host for the radio program. His short story “The World to Come” was One Story issue #16. “Cretan Love Song” is performed by Joe Morton.

Unfortunately we couldn’t fit all four pieces from that night at Symphony Space into an hour radio program, and so Seth Fried’s story, “The Adventure of the Computer Program,” will appear later in the season (I’ll write more on it then). For now you can find Seth’s issue of One Story, “Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre,” in his marvelous collection, The Great Frustration. Meanwhile I hope you’ll check your local time/public radio station, download a podcast of this program, or simply click below to hear three amazing stories, brought to you exclusively by One Story magazine.