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Like You'd Understand, Anyway: Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 25, 2007


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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (September 25, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307265218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307265210
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #683,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Following the novel Project X and Love and Hydrogen: New and Selected Stories, Shepard's new collection takes in landscapes as diverse as 1986 Chernobyl in "The Zero Meter Diving Team," to 1840s down under in "The First South Central Australian Expedition." It's clear that Shepard has done his research in these 11 first-person tales-be it on Alaskan tidal waves for a story about a man contemplating a vasectomy while reliving a childhood tragedy in "Pleasure Boating in Lituya Bay" or Sherpas and the Chang Tang tundra in "Ancestral Legacies", and his precision gives the poignant longing and human emotion of the stories room to resonate. Save for "Eros 7," about a lovelorn Soviet Cosmonaut set during the US/Russian space race, all are the stories are told by men, often with few female characters. At the core, each is essentially an exploration of familial relationships between men-be it the ill-fated trio of brothers working at the nuclear reactor or the unhappy adolescent camper calling home to find out about his mentally disturbed younger brother in "Courtesy for Beginners." Shepard's far-flung explorations get very close to the male heart.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Recently nominated for the National Book Award, Jim Shepard’s latest collection of short stories struck a chord with reviewers, who couldn’t agree on which stories were the best. Though each story is related through first-person testimony, Shepard gives each narrator his or her own voice with its own subtle nuances, and he masterfully sets the characters’ internal conflicts at odds with their external predicaments. The characters are convincing despite the incredible dilemmas they face, and the stories themselves are at once deadly serious and darkly humorous. Shepard’s tales may be bleak: some reviewers found the unrelenting hopelessness a bit wearying and urged readers to savor them one at a time. Yet Shepard’s compassion and sympathy shine through in what reviewers claim is his best work yet.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


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

4.5 out of 5 stars
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The stories here are brilliant.
KF
After plodding through the book, I found myself thinking about the stories.
Russell G. Moore
I love shepard's stories and I recommend his books.
mauro fragachan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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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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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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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