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We Live in Water: Storiesby Jess Walter
For me the key to a good short story is one that I want to read over and over. We Live in Water does just that... as soon as I finished the collection, I wanted to start it all over again. Walter has the ability to make you laugh out loud reading one story and cry reading the next; to me this makes him one of the greatest authors of the Pacific Northwest... up there with Sherman Alexie and Ursula K. Le Guin.
Synopses & Reviews
The first collection of short fiction from Jess Walter, New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Ruins, We Live in Water is a diverse suite of stories marked by the wry wit and generosity of spirit that has made him one of America's most talked-about writers.
Stories in We Live in Water range from comic tales of love to social satire and suspenseful crime fiction. Traveling from hip Portland to once-hip Seattle to never-hip Spokane, to a condemned casino in Las Vegas and a bottomless lake in the dark woods of Idaho, this is a world of lost fathers and redemptive con men, of personal struggles and diminished dreams.
In title story “We Live in Water”, a lawyer returns to his corrupt hometown to find his father, who disappeared 30 years earlier. In "Thief," a blue-collar worker turns unlikely detective to find out which of his kids is stealing from the family fund.
"Anything Helps" sees a homeless man try to raise money to buy his son the new Harry Potter book; and in "Virgo," a newspaper editor attempts to get back at his superstitious ex-girlfriend by screwing with her horoscope.
Also included are "Don't Eat Cat" and "Statistical Abstract of My Hometown, Spokane, Washington," both of which achieved cult status after their first publication online.
"Title notwithstanding, most of the characters in Walter's short stories live in Spokane, Wash., but they are often under water, or nearly so. Spokane, as Walter makes clear, bears little relationship to Portland or Seattle, the Pacific Northwest's name-brand cities. There are no locavores here, and the one potential latte drinker is stuck in Spokane doing his court-mandated community service and prefers scotch, anyway. Walter (Beautiful Ruins) writes — beautifully — about hard luck divorced dads, addicts, con artists, working men trying to keep things together, and a few zombies who've made the Seattle of the future look a lot like the Spokane of the present, which Walter describes as a place where, no matter how big your house is, 'you're never more than three blocks from a bad neighborhood.' Both 'Anything Helps' and 'Don't Eat Cat' (rule #1 for zombies trying to hold down a job and an apartment) are included in 2012 best-of anthologies, but good as they are, the star is the title story, a heartbreaker set in a formerly seedy, now touristed part of Idaho. Darkly funny, sneakily sad, these stories are very, very good. You know the way Web sites recommend books by saying if you liked this, you'll like that? The algorithm for this debut collection is straightforward: if you like to read, you'll like this book. Agent: Warren Frazier, John Hawkins and Associates." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Walter is a bighearted man who excels at writing about other bighearted, if broken, men. That generosity of spirit coupled with Walter's seeming inability to look away from the messy bits, elevates these stories from dirges to symphonies." New York Times Book Review
"Jess Walter, who is revered for his novels, shows a gritty side in these clear-cut stories....Each word is perfectly placed...[Walter] brings his first story collection to a smashing end." Daily Beast
"Mr. Walter brings (his) outlook to short-story writing easily, and with a vengeance....His most bleakly funny, hard-edge book in years." Janet Maslin, New York Times
"This badass collection aligns itself...with Walter's gritty, bighearted novels." Esquire
"[Walter] can mine the least scintilla of humor and wit from his characters' broken lives — people whose dreams will surely not come true but who somehow keep trying." Shelf Awareness
"Brims with humanity." Entertainment Weekly
"Wildly entertaining and thought-provoking fiction from a prodigiously talented writer." Booklist
"This debut story collection from Walter proves he's as skilled at satire and class commentary in the short form as in his novels....A witty and sobering snapshot of recession-era America." Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Walter's got a great ear and a genius for sympathy with America's new dispossessed." NPR's All Things Considered
"Deliver[s] unexpected laughs while playing with what it is we think we know...As a reader, I delight in Walter's work. As a writer (humor me here), I curse. He's so freakishly, fiendishly good, it isn't fair." Seattle Times
"With a cineaste's eye, [Walter] mov[es] the action at a terrific pace, such velocity and narrative swing....What he makes us understand is bracing, clear. Fiction or no, it is here we see Walter as trusted interlocutor, saying, let me show you, this is where we are now." The Oregonian (Portland)
"It is perhaps a grim and fatalistic vision that Jess Walter presents in We Live in Water, yet one that in today's America seems all-too-recognizable; no, we may not all live in water, but at one time or another, we have all lived in Spokane." San Francisco Chronicle
"For over a year, I've been waiting for a story collection to floor me the way Alan Heathcock did with Volt. The 13 stories of Jess Walter's We Live in Water come close." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Black humor is what we expect from Jess Walter. What is different is that the stories give us a sense of the writer's heart we haven't gotten from the parade of bright novels." Newsday
"There's a certain magic that comes with reading a good story. Even one that's not about a magical time...[Walter's] collection is full of tragic characters — the homeless, the drug-addicted and those who have lost everything to gambling debts. But it is not without humor." Marketplace.org, The Big Book
"Displays...fearless, unflinching prose in these short stories." Bookreporter.com
"[G]ritty, pitch-perfect collection...Walter wrings enlightenment from dark realities." People
"Incrementally, profoundly, brutally, [Walter] pulls back the curtain...We Live in Water is a great collection, in fact, and an important contribution to the literature of our region." Portland Mercury
We Live in Water, the first collection of short fiction from New York Times bestselling author Jess Walter, is a suite of diverse, often comic stories about personal struggle and diminished dreams, all of them marked by the wry wit and generosity of spirit that has made him one of our most talked-about writers. In "Thief," a blue-collar worker turns unlikely detective to find out which of his kids is stealing from the family vacation fund. In "We Live in Water," a lawyer returns to a corrupt North Idaho town to find the father who disappeared thirty years earlier. In "Anything Helps," a homeless man has to "go to cardboard" to raise enough money to buy his son the new Harry Potter book. In "Virgo," a local newspaper editor tries to get back at his superstitious ex-girlfriend by screwing with her horoscope. And the collection's final story transforms slyly from a portrait of Walter's hometown into a moving contemplation of our times.
About the Author
Jess Walter is the author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poets, the National Book Award finalist The Zero, the Edgar Award-winning Citizen Vince, Land of the Blind, and the New York Times Notable Book Over Tumbled Graves. He lives in Spokane, Washington, with his family.
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