Like You'd Understand, Anyway
By Jim Shepard
Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307265210, 224pp.
Publication Date: September 25, 2007
List Price: $23.00*
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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.”
“To praise Shepard’s mastery of voice is to undersell what these stories are doing; it isn’t the voice Shepard inhabits but the world. . . . Shepard is an impressive writer, but I wasn’t impressed until I finished the book: I was too busy being enthralled.”
—Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket), The New York Times Book Review
"Utterly captivating . . . Shepard's gutsy, brilliantly imagined, strongly made, fresh and propulsive stories grapple with follies minor and major, deliver us to the wilderness at the heart of the human psyche, and explode and reassemble our vision of the carnival we call civilization."
—Donna Seaman, The Chicago Tribune
"What's most remarkable about these stories, in the end, is how gently Shepard wraps the most extremely foreign and obscure events around emotional dilemmas common to all of us . . . The truth is we should understand this entire menagerie of characters. Scrape away the singular, perfectly detailed lives Shepard has given them and one thing is clear: They are us."
—John Freeman, The Boston Globe
"Cannily crafted . . . The stories couldn’ t be funnier—or deadlier—in this mad-smart, wildly inventive set."
—Lisa Shea, Elle
"A macro book with a micro eye. These wildly diverse stories share a fascination with the inevitable cost of familial obligation and the inescapable fallout from disaster, both natural and human-made.”
—Tara Ison, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"With a near spooky sense of empathy and a wit that finds its mark like lightning, the stories in Jim Shepard's Like You'd Understand, Anyway transport readers light-years beyond what they think they know of the world."
"An astounding set of stories [that] are so dangerously brilliant, they're radioactive."
—Vince Passaro, O Magazine
"Just when I think I'm quits with stories for good, I read a collection that knocks me dumb . . . In a little over two hundred pages, Jim Shepard tells us just about everything we need to know . . . [He] gives us our world in this little book. We'd be fools to ignore the offer."
—Benjamin Alsup, Esquire
"Jim Shepard casts a cool yet ultimately sympathic eye on those who perpetrate such follies and, in doing so, reveals their humanity."
—Carole Goldberg, The Hartford Courant
"So varied in tone, theme, voice and setting are these stories that they might've been written by a hydra. A hydra, that is, surfeited with remarkable wit, compassion and the gift of gab . . . Virtuoso work."