The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 16, No. 1

The Bookcase

by Bennett Sims

From WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life, distributed by Public Radio International. I'm Ira Glass. Every week on our show, of course, we choose a theme, bring you different kinds of stories on that theme, and this week the theme is . . . "Over My Dead Body." Stories of regular people who want something so much, want one particular thing so badly . . . that they're willing to fight to the death for it.
     Our show in four acts today, each of which starts with a thing and ends in a showdown for possession of that thing. Act 1, "The Will to Power": in this act a family is torn apart by strange provisions in their parents' will, devised as a practical joke from beyond the grave. Act 2, "Citation Needed": how one writer decides to sit vigil over his Wikipedia page, once anonymous users begin revising it. Act 3, "Partially Furnished": what happens when you have to fight your landlady, really physically fight her, for a piece of furniture that you both know is yours. Act 4, "The Magic Matzo": a new short story from This American Life contributor Etgar Keret, about a very special dumpling and the lengths to which people are willing to go to get it.
     Four desirable objects, four ferocious showdowns—you don't want to miss it. Stay with us.

If you've heard episode 529 of This American Life, you've heard my voice. I'm act 3, "Partially Furnished." The guy who fought his landlady for a cheap bookcase. I'd been telling this story for years before I was invited to tell it on TAL. My ex-girlfriend, Michelle, always hated it.

To read the rest of this story and others from the Spring 2012 issue, please purchase a copy from our online store.