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You Think That's Bad (Vintage Contemporaries)by Jim Shepard
Across continents and historical periods, in impeccably researched settings, Shepard's hapless narrators struggle for their humanity in the face of ignorance and stagnation. From returning veterans to missile scientists, from avalanche researchers to the makers of Godzilla, Shepard dramatizes history in fiction for his novelistic vignettes. Endlessly fascinating and beautifully written.
Synopses & Reviews
Following Like You'd Understand, Anyway — awarded the Story Prize and a finalist for the National Book Award — Jim Shepard returns with an even more wildly diverse collection of astonishingly observant stories. Like an expert curator, he populates the vastness of human experience — from its bizarre fringes and lonely, breathtaking pinnacles to the hopelessly mediocre and desperately below average — with brilliant scientists, reluctant soldiers, workaholic artists, female explorers, depraved murderers, and deluded losers, all wholly convincing and utterly fascinating.
A “black world” operative at Los Alamos isn't allowed to tell his wife anything about his daily activities, but he cant resist sharing her intimate confidences with his work buddy. A young Alpine researcher falls in love with the girlfriend of his brother, who was killed in an avalanche he believes he caused. An unlucky farm boy becomes the manservant of a French nobleman who's as proud of his military service with Joan of Arc as hes aroused by the slaughter of children. A free-spirited autodidact, grieving her lost sister, traces the ancient steps of a ruthless Middle Eastern sect and becomes the first Western woman to travel the Arabian deserts. From the inventor of the Godzilla epics to a miserable G.I. in New Guinea, each comes to realize that knowing better is never enough.
Enthralling and unfailingly compassionate, You Think That's Bad traverses centuries, continents, and social strata, but the joy and struggle that Shepard depicts with such devastating sensitivity — all the heartbreak, alienation, intimacy, and accomplishment — has a universal resonance.
From the Hardcover edition.
“If ventriloquism is a lost art, Mr. Shepard has found it...he can move the lips of anyone: a special effects designer on a Japanese film, a 15th-century accomplice to dozens of murders, a retired American soldier reeling with post-traumatic stress disorder. [He nails] entire worlds together with teeming, precise detail.” Susannah Meadows, The New York Times
“Exceptionally imaginative [and] highly original…There is so much knowledge, insight, feeling, and artistry in each engrossing Shepard story, he must defy some law of literary physics.” Donna Seaman, Booklist, starred
“Shepard’s elegant, darkly-tinged stories of love [offer] humor in unexpected places.” Publishers Weekly
"Excellent...brutal, funny, cerebral [and] further proof that Shepard is one of the most catholic writers in America....It's exhilarating just to make that list [of his characters], to recall the variety of forms and subjects and voices. And it's even more exhilarating to see what Shepard does to and within these forms, how he can make Blackwater-esque jargon funny, how he can make the end of the world and the end of a marriage equally terrifying, how he can show that we're closest to people when we're hurting them....In Shepard's hands the sense of doom is often transformed by the biting wit and his deep affection for his characters and their fates." The Boston Globe
“A master....Shepard’s taut, high-concept, research-dependent fiction covers a bracing, career-long range of hobbyhorses and obsessions....And his preference for historical quests, for real people’s big gestures, may help keep American short fiction from falling asleep in the snug little precincts of its usual subject matter.” The New York Times Book Review
>“Beautiful, essential...[Shepard is] one of the most perceptive, intelligent and fearless writers of fiction in America today...Each of the eleven stories in his new book is heartbreaking and true, and not one is less than perfect...[his] evocation of catastrophes both small and large, real and fictional, is an amazing study in contrast and loss, and it’s exquisitely written.” Michael Schaub, NPR
“Each one of these eleven stories stands out for its masterly fusion of technique and subject.” Alan Cheuse, San Francisco Chronicle
Following Like You’d Understand, Anyway — awarded the Story Prize and a finalist for the National Book Award — Jim Shepard returns with an even more wildly diverse collection of astonishingly observant stories. Like an expert curator, he populates the vastness of human experience — from its bizarre fringes and lonely, breathtaking pinnacles to the hopelessly mediocre and desperately below average — with brilliant scientists, reluctant soldiers, workaholic artists, female explorers, depraved murderers, and deluded losers, all wholly convincing and utterly fascinating.
About the Author
Jim Shepard is the author of six novels and three previous story collections. His stories are published regularly in such magazines as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Zoetrope: All-Story, Playboy, and Vice, among others. “The Netherlands Lives with Water,” from this collection, appears in The Best American Short Stories 2010. “Your Fate Hurtles Down at You,” also from this collection, appears in PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2011. He lives with his wife and their three children in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
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