Fixated on Short Fiction: Jenny Hollowell’s “A Short History of Everything, Including You”

29 Jun

Radiolab (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Cross-country drives with Culture Husband mean time to share our favorite music and podcasts. We’ve learned to love Ira Glass‘s “This American Life” and many of the storytelling radio programs that Culture Husband believes Ira made possible. A particular favorite is Radiolab. We’ve even gone to see a live taping of it.

Today Culture Husband insisted I listen to an episode called “The Trouble With Everything.” Radiolab tackles questions of science in a a smart, entertaining,  and thoughtful way. This episode explored the hypothesis that it is possible, according to some physicists, to know everything, and its counterpart, that every question leads to more questions.

But first it began with a piece of short-short fiction exploring the same topic, defined as 2,000 words or less. The hosts, Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, introduce Jenny Hollowell’s story briefly, stating only that they read it among hundreds that they we’re reading to screen for a collection of shorts. While they argued, debated, and fought over most of the stories, this one they both immediately loved.

It is once of the loveliest, most haunting stories I’ve heard (or read). Lovely in its simplicity, tight craftsmanship, and gorgeously precise word choice. Haunting because of the fundamental, universal truth it seems to get at with regards to human relationships.

I won’t say more because I could never do it justice. I simple urge you to listen to Hollowell read her beautiful story.

You’ll want to listen to the whole episode and hear her talk about how she arrived at this nearly perfect fiction short.


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