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Jim Shepard

Like You'd Understand, Anyway

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Following his widely acclaimed <i>Project X</i> and <i>Love and Hydrogen</i>--&quot;Here is the effect of these two books,&quot; wrote the <i>Chicago Tribune: </i> &quot;A reader finishes them buzzing with awe&quot;--Jim Shepard now gives us his first entirely new collection in more than a decade. <p></p> <i>Like You'd Understand, Anyway</i> reaches from Chernobyl to Bridgeport, with a host of narrators only Shepard could bring to pitch-perfect life. Among them: a middle-aged Aeschylus taking his place at Marathon, still vying for parental approval. A maddeningly indefatigable Victorian explorer hauling his expedition, whaleboat and all, through the Great Australian Desert in midsummer. The first woman in space and her cosmonaut lover, caught in the star-crossed orbits of their joint mission. Two Texas high school football players at the top of their food chain, soliciting their fathers' attention by leveling everything before them on the field. And the rational and compassionate chief executioner of Paris, whose occupation, during the height of the Terror, eats away at all he holds dear. <p></p>Brimming with irony, compassion, and withering humor, these eleven stories are at once eerily pertinent and dazzlingly exotic, and they showcase the work of a protean, prodigiously gifted writer at the height of his form. Reading Jim Shepard, according to Michael Chabon, &quot;is like encountering our national literature in microcosm.&quot;

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Following his widely acclaimed Project X and Love and Hydrogen--"Here is the effect of these two books," wrote the Chicago Tribune: "A reader finishes them buzzing with awe"--Jim Shepard now gives us his first entirely new collection in more than a decade.

Like You'd Understand, Anyway reaches from Chernobyl to Bridgeport, with a host of narrators only Shepard could bring to pitch-perfect life. Among them: a middle-aged Aeschylus taking his place at Marathon, still vying for parental approval. A maddeningly indefatigable Victorian explorer hauling his expedition, whaleboat and all, through the Great Australian Desert in midsummer. The first woman in space and her cosmonaut lover, caught in the star-crossed orbits of their joint mission. Two Texas high school football players at the top of their food chain, soliciting their fathers' attention by leveling everything before them on the field. And the rational and compassionate chief executioner of Paris, whose occupation, during the height of the Terror, eats away at all he holds dear.

Brimming with irony, compassion, and withering humor, these eleven stories are at once eerily pertinent and dazzlingly exotic, and they showcase the work of a protean, prodigiously gifted writer at the height of his form. Reading Jim Shepard, according to Michael Chabon, "is like encountering our national literature in microcosm."Following his widely acclaimed Project X and Love and Hydrogen—“Here is the effect of these two books,” wrote the Chicago Tribune: “A reader finishes them buzzing with awe”—Jim Shepard now gives us his first entirely new collection in more than a decade.

Like You’d Understand, Anyway reaches from Chernobyl to Bridgeport, with a host of narrators only Shepard could bring to pitch-perfect life. Among them: a middle-aged Aeschylus taking his place at Marathon, still vying for parental approval. A maddeningly indefatigable Victorian explorer hauling his expedition, whaleboat and all, through the Great Australian Desert in midsummer. The first woman in space and her cosmonaut lover, caught in the star-crossed orbits of their joint mission. Two Texas high school football players at the top of their food chain, soliciting their fathers’ attention by leveling everything before them on the field. And the rational and compassionate chief executioner of Paris, whose occupation, during the height of the Terror, eats away at all he holds dear.

Brimming with irony, compassion, and withering humor, these eleven stories are at once eerily pertinent and dazzlingly exotic, and they showcase the work of a protean, prodigiously gifted writer at the height of his form. Reading Jim Shepard, according to Michael Chabon, “is like encountering our national literature in microcosm.”

Specifications

Series Title
Vintage Contemporaries
Publisher
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Book Format
Paperback
Original Languages
English
Number of Pages
224
Author
Jim Shepard
ISBN-13
9780307277602
Publication Date
August, 2008
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
8.00 x 5.10 x 0.60 Inches
ISBN-10
0307277607

Customer Reviews

Average Rating:(3.4)out of 5 stars
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1-5 of 7 reviews
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

Shepard writes amazing...

Shepard writes amazing stories, and this book is proof. Filled with wonder, Shepard blends history and science into his tales to create fulfilling stories.

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

These eleven short sto...

These eleven short stories are beautiful and bleak. Not to be read all at once all, but collectively they are very powerful.

Average Rating:(3.0)out of 5 stars

3 stars? 4 stars? Let...

3 stars? 4 stars? Let's say a high 3.Now what are these stories like, anyway?- Ending: One of the things that caught my eye is how Shepard chooses not to provide a denouement for some of his stories, but leaves us with the thoughts of the narrator at a crucial moment. He would leave the narrator in front of the two doors holding the lady or the tiger, leaving it up to the reader to imagine what happened next. This often saves his stories from what could have been a flat and predictable ending.- Setting: Shepard puts his characters in extreme and adventurous conditions, usually very far removed from the kind of experiences most of us would have had. It could be an expedition group spending months in an uninhabited desert (before they had motor vehicles), an executioner from barbaric times, Valentina Tereshkova right before becoming the first woman to enter space or a warrior holding a spear, anticipating an attack at any moment.The emotional setting, however, is not always so distant. The emotional content has often to do with the narrators' relations with family, friends or love. Threadbare father-son or brother-brother relations are the most common. He largely sticks with timeless emotions and carries them to a variety of time periods and situations.- Characters: Since all the stories are written from a first-person point-of-view, the narrators are very self-aware and self-reflective, so as to be able to convey their thoughts to the reader. Barring one story, all have a male narrator. Female characters mostly appear only in small roles, as wives or mothers to complete the family. Perhaps the author isn't comfortable writing from a female point-of-view.- Writing: Shepard doesn't resort to any gimmicks or theatrics, but simply lets the content hold up the stories. Given the research he must have done to come up with the unconventional settings, it makes sense not to obfuscate all of that with fancy writing techniques. What that gives us are event-driven and easily readable stories.- At least five brothers, and a few sons, had to die for these stories to be written.

Average Rating:(3.0)out of 5 stars

This is a shortish boo...

This is a shortish book of short stories that reads long. Each story is very tight, and some even seem to be almost overworked--a nice treat from some of the looser prose on the market today. I suspect the fact that the author is a writing teacher causes this; I've noticed this elsewhere that it's hard to find loose, jagged (and really fast) prose from a writing teacher. In any case, what is amazing about this book is two things. First, that each of the stories' characters have truly different voices. You can't get this from Hai Jin, Maupassant, and many others. It's superlative, as if each story was written by a different author--because usually some similar pitch, flavor, emotion, sensibility, something rolls constant from story to story. The book is worth reading just for that sensation alone - as if this is a buffet from 5 different restaurants at one sitting. The other unique thing is that the stories hark from different parts of the world, during different ages. A story of a Roman military family defending Hadrian's Wall is especially good. As are the stories about characters during the Chernobyl disaster another one with a background of a seismic event in Alaska. Be ready to be mildly disappointed as a couple of these stories have appeared in popular magazines like Harpers: one called Sans Farine about an executioner during the French Revolution, and one about football players in Texas. A rote addition to every sad-kid's summer camp story. And there's a four page nuclear family vignette that really seems an excerpt from a play that should be read during an audition, but not appearing here as a story. All in all a worthy book and refreshing in its different-ness: tightly crafted with extraordinary ventriloquism, a broad scope with unfortuna tley wide range of quality.

Average Rating:(3.0)out of 5 stars

Started this in Januar...

Started this in January, put it aside and then picked it back up again. Some of the stories were very hard for me to get into. I think history buffs would enjoy it very much, but I had a hard time recalling some of the historical references --it's been too long since I took a history class! It's hard to imagine a broader cast of narrators, though, from Aeschylus to a Soviet female cosmonaut to an executioner during the French revolution. The vast amount of research that went into getting into the narrators' heads was impressive to say the least.


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