Hillel Italie reports that award-winning writers Sherman Alexie and Edwidge Danticat presided over a two-hour “Selected Shorts” program Wednesday evening that included readings and musical performances at Manhattan’s Symphony Space. Italie writes:
For a reading jointly hosted by award-winning writers Sherman Alexie and Edwidge Danticat, the night began with three microphones and a guitar on stage. A piano, bass, drums and saxophone soon followed. Think of it, Alexie told the hundreds gathered Wednesday night at Manhattan’s Symphony Space, as a literary version of the old Sid Caesar variety show.
Alexis and Danticat, who have written fiction and nonfiction, for young people and adults, presided over a two-hour “Selected Shorts” program that included readings and musical performances, with some commentary and jokes added by the two featured authors. “Selected Shorts,” a longtime favorite both as a local stage performance and nationwide audio broadcast, pairs literary works with prominent actors and other artists.
Marsha Stephanie Blake of “Orange is the New Black” among other shows gave a spirited reading of Danticat’s “Reading Lessons,” the story of a Haitian immigrant teaching at an experimental school in Miami. Jeremy Shamos, a Tony nominee for “Clybourne Park,” found laughter and tenderness in Alexie’s “South by Southwest,” a farcical and yearning road tale about a white man and American Indian that begins with a robbery at an International House of Pancakes in Washington state and ends with a robbery at a McDonald’s in Arizona.
Music and the spoken word took turns Wednesday. Wesley Stace, sometimes known as John Wesley Harding, set Alexie’s picture book “Thunder Boy, Jr.” to a folk rock melody while the Pauline Jean Ensemble transformed Danticat’s poem “Their Blood, Bondye” into a haunting torch song.
Alexie’s works include the young adult novel “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” for which he received a National Book Award, and the novel “War Dances,” a winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award. Danticat’s novel “Breath, Eyes, Memory” was selected by Oprah Winfrey for her book club and her memoir “Brother, I’m Dying” won a National Book Critics Circle Award. [. . .]