Barbara Wenglin’s short-story discussion series has been a mainstay at the Library for years, but the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 caused the format to change from in-person to virtual, via the Zoom platform.
“What we lost in intimacy was made up by gaining participants from beyond White Plains. Through the Library’s website, newsletter, social media, and word of mouth, we were able to reach out around the region and around the country,” noted Librarian Wenglin.
Virtual programs will continue in the 2020-2021 season, which has resulted in the choice of a new series anthology, available in many formats. “100 Years of the Best American Short Stories (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015), edited by Lorrie Moore and Heidi Pitlor, can be borrowed in hard copy from the White Plains Public Library and throughout the Westchester Library System,” says Wenglin. “You can check the Catalog here, with copies also available in our eBook collections though Hoopla and OverDrive/Libby.”
This big, bold compilation of works published between 1915 and 2015 celebrates the centennial of The Best American Short Stories annual series. The 40 stories selected by the editor are grouped chronologically in five-year increments, and the common denominator that Wenglin has selected for the fall series is “intriguing and edgy romantic relationships, often unrequited.”
Opening the series on Thursday, October 8, at 2:00 p.m. is “The Enormous Radio,” John Cheever's 1948 story of a New York couple’s lifestyle affected and influenced by an unusual radio, which ironically was about to be challenged in media dominance by the then-nascent television. Also to be explored is editor Moore's introduction to the anthology. The Vanderbilt University English professor's discussion of the history of the short-story genre “is inspiring and informative” says Wenglin.
The seven sessions of the fall schedule are on Thursdays from 2:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. and will conclude with a review of F. Scott Fitzgerald's iconic story, “Babylon Revisited,” on January 7, 2021. This will be the lead-in for the final January 14 discussion of the movie that it inspired, The Last Time I Saw Paris (MGM, 1954), with a stellar cast including Elizabeth Taylor, Van Johnson, Donna Reed, Walter Pidgeon, Eva Gabor, and a future James Bond, Roger Moore. The film can be viewed before the meeting via Kanopy and Hoopla, the Library’s free streaming services. It is also streaming free on YouTube as the film is in the public domain due to an error with the Roman numerals in the copyright notice upon its release.
A tradition Wenglin is continuing is ending each program with a “relevant” song. Among her selections for last year’s “Stories of Motherhood” were The Beatles' “All You Need Is Love” and “What I Did for Love” from A Chorus Line.
You can click here for the full story series schedule with dates and readings. Please register through Zoom here. The series is supported by the Friends of the White Plains Library. All are welcome, including newcomers. For further information, email Barbara at email@example.com.
–Written by Steven Cohn