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Like You'd Understand, Anyway (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – August 12, 2008


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Like You'd Understand, Anyway (Vintage Contemporaries) + You Think That's Bad (Vintage Contemporaries) + Love and Hydrogen: New and Selected Stories
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (August 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307277607
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307277602
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #410,038 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Forged from the world with a sharp eye and a careful ear, serving no agenda but literature's primary and oft-forgotten one: the delight of the reader.” —The New York Times Book Review“Gutsy, brilliantly imagined, strongly made, fresh and propulsive.” —Chicago Tribune“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.” —Vanity Fair“Exquisite, multifaceted tales.” —The New Yorker “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.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review“Cannily crafted. . . . The stories couldn't be funnier-or deadlier-in this mad-smart, wildly inventive set.” —Elle “Jim Shepard is really a terrific writer. And it's not just the precision of the sentences. . . . It is the way he captures people throughout time with such an exact piercing, as though he's mapped out every corresponding nerve that can make us go weak at the knees.” —Providence Journal“An astounding set of stories . . . so dangerously brilliant, they're radioactive.” —O Magazine

About the Author

Jim Shepard is the author of six novels and two previous collections of stories. He teaches at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

More About the Author

Jim Shepard was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and is the author of six novels, including most recently Project X, and four story collections, including the forthcoming You Think That's Bad (March 2011). His third collection, Like You'd Understand, Anyway, was a finalist for the National Book Award and won The Story Prize. Project X won the 2005 Library of Congress/Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction, as well as the ALEX Award from the American Library Association. His short fiction has appeared in, among other magazines, Harper's, McSweeney's, The Paris Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, DoubleTake, the New Yorker, Granta, Zoetrope: All-Story, and Playboy, and he was a columnist on film for the magazine The Believer. Four of his stories have been chosen for the Best American Short Stories and one for a Pushcart Prize. He's won an Artists' Grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He teaches at Williams College and lives in Williamstown with his wife Karen, his three children, and two beagles.

Customer Reviews

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The funniest thing happened while reading "Like You'd Understand, Anyway".
Russell G. Moore
Shepard is one of the best living short story writers in America, right up there with Steven Millhauser and George Saunders.
trevornewland
And on top of these realities, we are able to inhabit the minds of the characters who were there.
David Haddad

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Balbach on January 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like You'd Understand, Anyway is a collection of short stories written over a 4 year period by Jim Shepard, professor at Williams College in Massachusetts. The stories vary widely, but an underlying structure subtly percolates through, barely wetting our feet, inviting the curious to seek out the source of the spring. As Shepard says in an interview for the 2007 National Book Award nomination: "while lots of people have talked about how different my narratives and/or my narrative voices might be, the emotional preoccupations tend to be very similar. I probably obsess about the same five things, over and over."

The book is dedicated to Shepard's brother, and most of the stories explore brotherly relationships, in particular how "the past enters and floods our present" (p.140) - the football player in "Trample the Dead" who finds motivation in the pain of his past and future brother; the summer camp kid in "Courtesy for Beginners" whose brothers trauma inescapably creates his own nightmare. As the picture on the cover suggests, the more two brothers (or fathers and sons) struggle to achieve identity, the more their lives intertwine and become indistinguishable, driven by the "tsunami" of people and events outside their control.

As the self-referencing title of the book alludes, this is a somewhat post-modern book, the stories are not really about anything, they often end with no satisfying closure or even a discernible plot.
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46 of 57 people found the following review helpful By David Haddad on September 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Much has been in the reviews (including Lemony Snicket's glowing commentary in the New York Times) on the range of subjects treated here. I think that this sound bite risks reducing these thrilling stories to novelty pieces... not the case. These hit with tremendous impact. We are skillfully, swiftly, convincingly led to see what we have in common with Russian physicists, Roman soldiers, or a little brother in Connecticut, and their emotional upheavals slam vividly close to home.

Two things, in my opinion, make this book particularly current and essential:
-For whatever reasons, popular taste seems to have shifted from fiction to nonfiction. Memoirs have famously succeeded where novels could not be published. New popularity of documentaries, reality television, etc. Everywhere we see claims to "reality-based" entertainment, though in most cases it has clearly been punched up to inject a little excitement into the proceedings. Instead of fictionalizing a dubious reality, the project of grounding a fiction in the dirt and busted concrete of actual events is far more compelling. This is what I see in the intensive research behind Shepard's stories. But these are not at all dragged down by an abundance of detail, as if to prove that the research was done. Instead, the details were clearly internalized: the voice and setting that emerges is fluid, captivating, real. And on top of these realities, we are able to inhabit the minds of the characters who were there.

-I may have lost track, but I think this is the Information Age, or else the Age Immediately Following It. We have seen periodic writers come and go that purportedly capture this new era. Much of that work is a disorienting blather, loosely attempting to be about everything but in fact being about nothing.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Morris on January 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is the book that made me a Jim Shepard fan. Time Magazine, in its "Best Of" for 2007, called it off-beat. I like to think of the stories as very human. You probably know next to nothing about Hadrian, Cosmonauts or executioners living during the French Revolution- and I know even less. But what makes these stories stand out is the combination of sympathetic, conflicted characterizations, vivid imagery and flashes of humor. Shepard isn't a best-selling author by any means- when I borrowed his second collection,"Love and Hydrogen," from the Library it turned out no one else had- but for anyone looking for involving, energetic storytelling should give this book a chance.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By KF on November 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
What's left to say? The stories here are brilliant.

People have commented on how various the stories here are, taking you from Chernobyl to Australia's inland desert to revolutionary France. And there's a marvelous treat in experiencing these exceptionally evocative, varied settings--every time you pick up the book, you're taken somewhere entirely different. But it's not just a party trick--even as they take you all over the globe and human history, they also feel like they fit together with their own kind of cohesiveness, led by concerns about family--a cohesiveness that makes each individual story even more rewarding upon re-reading. I have a feeling I'll be returning to them for a long time, always looking forward to finding something new.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By QQ on September 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
In most of the short stories in "Like You'd Understand, Anyway," Jim Shepard examines families. We get family relationships from ancient Greece to present-day Texas through the eyes of a least-favorite son, a son yearning for a father, a troubled brother whose brother is even more troubled, and unsteady husbands. They are families in which, as the title suggests, understandings are less than perfect. Indeed, in many ways they are stories of isolation and estrangement within the family. Other stories are about obsessed explorers.
Be advised that the weakest story is the first, which takes place at Chernobyl. The second story, the shortest in the book, hits home hard. From there, the book is continually fascinating.
Shepard is easy to read. Stories of great subtlety seem effortlessly written. Shepard presents characters we soon feel we know. Indeed, through his stories it is the reader who ends up understanding quite a bit.
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