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You Think That's Bad: Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Mar 22 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (March 22 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307594823
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307594822
  • Product Dimensions: 2.7 x 15.2 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #626,790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 9 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Let a master storyteller fly you away to places familiar and exotic March 30 2011
By J. A Magill - Published on
Format: Hardcover
One doesn't so much read a Jim Shepard story as dive into his infectiously delicious prose. If you've enjoyed his previous novels or story collections than you're no doubt thrilled at the publication of his latest, //You Think That's Bad.// And if you've not yet had the pleasure, well then consider yourself graced by good fortune and avail take opportunity to immerse yourself in his spectacular imagination.

Other writers to often settle for remaining in their comfort zone; by contrast Shepard stand out for bold leaps in genre, style, and voice, bringing his empathic spirit to topics few others would tackle. . Consider his novel, "Project X," which pushed past the shallow moral outrage that followed the Columbine tragedy and explored a school shooting from the perspective of the perpetrators. Indeed, in addition to his deep research, his black sense of humor, and his gift for characterization, it is his deep pathos, his easy rapport with the exotic, which chimes through this author's work.

The string which binds the stories in//You Think That's Bad// is that empathy ladled onto our common existential tragedy - sure you are alone, struggling, and going to die, but at least we're all in it together. We all want to understand and to be understood. All of us want to be loved. Not that many of us - or Shepard's characters for that matter - achieve these goals. Many, perhaps most, of those inhabiting these stories aren't particularly nice, indeed they often range from the damaged to the outright cruel, but they are all in their own way familiar, even while being impossibly alien.

Real life explorer Freya Stark flees her egomaniacal mother, whose machinations have led to her sister Vera's death, to search the Persian wastes for Alamut, the lost citadel of the Assassins. The creator/effect artist of Gojira (Godzilla) must balance his troubled marriage, post-war Japanese culture, and the pain of his past against his need to create something unique. As Papua New Guinea tries to kill a soldier in World War II, he struggles with a love triangle back home, one leg of which is his own brother. A peasant in 15th Century France finds himself bound in service to the infamous child murderer, Gilles de Rais.

Part of the delight in Shepard's work is how he helps us inhabit these dispirit milieus, to get to know and feel for these distant characters, even as he deftly layers in an array of fascinating details. Ever wonder about how the Netherlands will manage to hold back the ocean against global climate change? Might you be curious to learn that the Godzilla costume was so broiling that the actor needed to be removed from it every fifteen minutes and that each time over a cup of sweat was drained from each boots? Or perhaps you're curious what it is like to be married to an engineer working in the black world of secret military research?

Yes, Shepard answers all these questions and more; he is a sort of time-hopping sorcerous prose genius with a gift for research. Yet he isn't a writer who feels the need to batter us with facts. Settings and factoids always, always here work to uncover a sense of something true and universal, even as they aid in his telling of a great story. More than anything that may be the source of Shepard's genius, the ability to take the most alien of people in the most unimaginable places and demonstrate how, despite vast chasms of distance and time, we are all far more alike than we are different. We struggle, we strive, and we all enjoy a great tale when it is well told. On that last score, few writers can hold a quill or a candle to the great Jim Shepard.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Truth as Fiction and Vice Versa April 25 2011
By David R. Anderson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
If you ever wondered what goes in to writing a short story, Jim Shepard's new collection, "you think that's bad," offers some good clues. To find them go to the three pages of Acknowledgments at the end of the book. Then look at the list of 18 works he relied on in writing "Netherlands Lives with Water," a description of the hell that breaks loose when the sea walls protecting that low-lying country bend and then break from the force of a one-in-a century Atlantic storm beefed up by climate change.

If you're a reader who looks for more from fiction than a good yarn, Shepard is your man. In "Your Fate Hurtles Down at You" Shepard takes you to a scientific station "on a wind-blasted slope of the Weisssfluhjoch 3,500 meters above Davos" where four "Frozen Idiots" are studying the conditions that turn Alpine snow from a ski trail into an avalanche. He goes back to the mountains again, this time to the Himalayas, in "Poland Is Watching." His protagonist is a Pole who sets out for the summit of Nanga Parbat in the dead of winter because the challenge of climbing it in good weather doesn't count for much in his book. You will cringe from this authoritative story of the incredible hardships and risks involved.

"Gojira, King of the Monsters" couldn't be more timely or more realistic. It is a story built around the Japanese fear of a nuclear disaster, cast in this case as a monster created by nature in retribution for man's many assaults on planet earth. Shepard writes here with the strength of detail and insight which Haruki Murakami brought to "Underground," his remarkable account of the 1995 Tokyo subway gas attack and its effects on the Japanese psyche.

As the collection's title, "you think that's bad, " tells you, these stories are gritty; tough emotional going in places, peopled by men, women, boys and girls you would as soon lived in the next block over if not on the other side of town. Their redeeming qualities are not what set them apart; it is their self-centeredness, their indifference to family and friends, their willingness to sacrifice others for their own satisfactions.

If I missed anything in this collection, its the absence of a story on the lighter side like "Batting Against Castro" from Shepard's first published collection. It is about a pair of loopy ex-major league ball players trying to make their way back to the bigs by playing in Cuba. They don't make it there either, but it was great fun reading about their effort.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Amazing March 30 2011
By Book Vixen - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I was blown away by the author's ability to tell stories that are so completely different from one another. Usually an author's voice is identifiable throughout a collection and the range of setting and character are relatively limited. Jim Shepard seems to me almost a magician, pulling off stories set in different centuries and continents, and as you are reading each one you are thinking--this is impossible--how's he doing it--while hanging onto every beautiful sentence and image. His writing is flawless. Amazing.
I think it's good; in fact, I think it's great. May 16 2014
By Ronald D. Barry - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Jim Shepard is the best American short story writer alive today. He has an astonishing range, and perhaps best of all, he does his research more thoroughly than any other writer I know of.
wonderful tales Feb. 8 2014
By Paul A. Price - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Such rich and enthralling storytelling, that lifts the reader up from their existence and into the scenes portrayed in these detailed and wondrous scenes.