September 25, 2008

Restoring My Faith in Short Stories

I was really in need of some good writing in the effort to erase the traumatic memories of the whole The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry fiasco.  

Thank you Like You'd Understand Anyway by Jim Shepard for purging my mind and renewing my confidence in authors and publishing houses.

This is one of those books that I've picked up I can't even count how many times at the library and bookstore, always intrigued by the title and cover.  (Isn't it pretty?  Props to the design people).  I finally brought it home.

Then I realized it was a collection of short stories and almost threw it across the room.

I am NOT a fan of the short story.  Mavis Gallant, Jhumpa Lahiri, endless anthologies in high school and college.  Kind of boring.  Maybe I just haven't been reading the right things.  

Whatever the case, I feel the author ends up trying desperately to force a point in a very limited number of pages.  Or the story is just completely pointless.

Hooray Mr. Shepard!

I'll admit, I didn't always grasp the "point" of these stories.  Hell, there very well might not have been a point to begin with.  It didn't really matter.

This book was like channel surfing through random snippets of people's lives from all corners of place and time.  With radically different settings, each story zooms in on an individual somewhere in history and gives the reader a snapshot of their experience.  

My favorites were "Pleasure Boating in Lituya Bay" and "Eros 7."  
And "Courtesy for Beginners."  
And " The First South Central Australian Expedition."    

OK so I liked a lot of them.

The final story in the collection, "Sans Farine" kind of freaked me out a bit because it was all about an executioner during the French Revolution.  A bit graphic and gory with all those rolling heads.  But even that was so well-written that it was bearable. 

Shepard has such a poetic focus on word choice and rhythm, and its really a pleasure to read.  And the man clearly puts a LOT of research into his stories, which run the gamut in historical and technical details.

Mr. Shepard, thank you for showing me the light!

1 comment:

Jaya said...

you should read "twilight of the superheroes" by deborah eisenberg. it's a fantastic collection of short stories... and i think you might dig it. i have a copy; let me know if you want to borrow it.