I finally put my finger on the reason why I can never stand to listen to the NPR radio show Selected Shorts for very long. I was in the kitchen with someone who said that she was really enjoying the short story being read on the show, and then turned on the blender, drowning out the self-consciously clever voice of the reader.
When the whine winded down, I heard the story, about a growing romance, describe what one of the characters regarded as “tenable”. I have never in my life heard anybody talk about romance in terms of what’s tenable. Considering what’s tenable in matters of human emotion is untenable.
Selected Shorts claims that “short stories by established and emerging writers take on a new life when they are performed by stars of the stage and screen”. That’s not what I hear when I try to listen to the show on the kitchen radio. What I hear is a deadly combination of writers writing writerly and actors acting actorishly.
It’s a pose, and poses adopted so self-consciously are rarely poignant, however much they may be remarked upon by fellow artists.