Guest host Robert Sean Leonard presents three stories about fateful encounters. Henry Slesar's "The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross" was a classic “Twilight Zone” episode about over-ambition. It's read by Robert Sean Leonard. Leonard also reads the second story, Eric Schlich's "Head Over Knees." Finally, actress Colby Minifie reads Helen Oyeyemi's update on a classic fairy tale.
Guest host Robert Sean Leonard presents three stories about fateful encounters. Henry Slesar's "The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross" was a classic “Twilight Zone” episode about over-ambition. It was featured in an evening at Symphony Space celebrating Rod Serling's ground-breaking television series, which used elements of science fiction and fantasy to examine social issues and the human condition.
Slesar (1927 – 2002) was a prolific author of detective fiction, science fiction, criminal stories, mysteries, and thrillers, which were published in Playboy, Imaginative Tales, and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. He collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock on dozens of teleplays for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and several of his short stories, including this one, were adapted by Rod Serling for The Twilight Zone.
Leonard won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance in The Invention of Love and nominations for his work in Long Day’s Journey Into Night and Candida. Additional Broadway appearances include roles in The Iceman Cometh, Arcadia, The Speed of Darkness,The Music Man, Camelot, and Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo. His films include The Last Days of Disco, In the Gloaming, The Killer, Much Ado About Nothing, The Age of Innocence, Swing Kids, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, Dead Poets Society, and A Painted House. He starred in the television drama House, and was most recently featured on Falling Skies, The Blacklist, and Blue Bloods.
Leonard also reads Eric Schlich's "Head Over Knees," in which a teen's envy turns to empathy. This story was the winner of our annual Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize contest. Schlich is the author of Quantum Convention, winner of the 2018 Katherine Anne Porter Prize (forthcoming this November from the University of North Texas Press). His stories have appeared or will appear in Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, Fairy Tale Review, Mississippi Review, The Massachusetts Review,Hayden's Ferry Review, Electric Literature, Redivider, River Styx, Nimrod,New South, and others.
In our final story, Helen Oyeyemi dresses an old fairy tale in new clothes in “Dornicka and the St. Martin's Day Goose.” Oyeyemi writes transgressive, humorous, and outre fiction. She is the author of five novels, including White is for Witching, which won a 2010 Somerset Maugham Award, and Mr. Fox, which won a 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Her story collection What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours was published in 2016. Oyeyemi was named one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists in 2013.
Reader Colby Minifie has appeared on stage in “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” “Punk Rock,” and “Six Degrees of Separation.” Her television work includes roles on “Jessica Jones,” “Black Box,” “The Blacklist,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Law & Order SVU,” and “Dietland.”