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Like You'd Understand, Anyway

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  1,594 Ratings  ·  239 Reviews
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 p
ebook, 224 pages
Published November 19th 2008 by Vintage Books USA (first published 2007)
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3 stars? 4 stars? Let's say a high 3.

Now what are these stories like, anyway?

- Ending: One of the things that caught my eye is how Shepard chooses not to provide a denouement for some of his stories, but leaves us with the thoughts of the narrator at a crucial moment. He would leave the narrator in front of the two doors holding the lady or the tiger, leaving it up to the reader to imagine what happened next. This often saves his stories from what could have been a flat and predictable ending.

Diamond Cowboy
Nov 25, 2015 Diamond Cowboy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great collection of eleven short stories by Jim Sheppard. They depict two athletes on a Texas highschool football team, an explorer and his crew exploring the vast desert of Austrailia, an astronaught visiting outerspace for the first time to name a few. They are masterfully written and compiled. I would recommend this collection to everyone. Enjoy and Be Blessed. Diamond
Oct 23, 2007 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like You’d Understand Anyway is a collection of all first-person short stories, though the similarities between them end there. The settings and time periods range from the site of Hadrian’s Wall during the late Roman Empire, to present day Alaska, to Chernobyl during the nuclear meltdown, to gothic France, to summer camp in 1960s America.

In these stories, Shepard does something that very, very few contemporary do these days: he uses his imagination and has fun. No, you won’t find stories here a
Oct 18, 2008 Heather rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished
This book of short stories takes all the trends of contemporary fiction (premises that involve lots of background research, slang, and dudeliness) and gums them together into a smug, unreadable mess. I managed to finish 'Zero Meter Diving Team', the first story, but I assure you that is only because of my reader's guilt. I was able to make less and less headway into each story that followed. Alternate title for this book: Boring in Space.
Sep 21, 2007 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, underrated
If you like short stories, you should not fail to pick up this volume, Shepard's third. Shepard's writing has a breadth pretty much unmatched in modern fiction -- he writes in wildly divergent voices and there's not a clumsy piece of prose, or even a misstep, in a single one of them.

If Jim Shepard doesn't win the National Book Award for this work, they should just abolish the damn award and have done with it. Either that or be honest about it and just give it to random books chosen by lot.

May 01, 2013 Kawai rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It seems Jim Shepard's always flown under the radar, even though his latest book was nominated for a National Book Award and much of his work has received critical praise. It's a shame he doesn't get more attention, because books like this put him near the top of the list for contemporary writers. As a collection, LIKE YOU'D UNDERSTAND, ANYWAY, moves deftly across space and time, giving us a great range of voices in rich settings: A female cosmonaut fighting feelings of self-loathing and lonelin ...more
Nate D
Oct 19, 2009 Nate D rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Most anyone, including people who would hate a lot of my other favorites
Recommended to Nate D by: McSweeney's
Jim Shepard may be the finest living practitioner of the traditional short story form. His writing is direct, entertaining, insightful, gimmickless. Inventive and brilliant and perfectly formed, but in subtle ways that don't draw attention to themselves, or dissolve their readability. Their readability ism of a sort of breathless, action-heavy minimalism I associate mainly with Real-Life Adventure accounts in magazines. At worst, they can come off as exactly that: adventure stories, however artf ...more
Mar 31, 2009 Luke rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After reading such praised reviews, a National Book award finalist to boot, and heeding a stong recommendation to, 'buy this book now' I am sadly disappointed. I have a love-hate relationship with short stories to begin with so am prone to being less than wooed when it comes to collections. Shepard is not a bad writer and not necessarily a bad story teller, its just that THESE didn't work. For me. Yes, kudos to him for spanning such a variety of settings and time-stamps in history and characters ...more
Feb 14, 2010 Amy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
blah. out of eleven short stories, i really only liked one, a few were ok, and the rest were crap. i couldn't even finish some of them, and not being able to finish a short story is pretty ridiculous. the stories are grossly male-dominated, and the only story written from a female perspective was of course about a woman so lovesick that she could not properly do her job. if there were any other female characters, i do not recall, as they were so unmemorable. vomit.
Owen Kendall
Oct 12, 2007 Owen Kendall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Currently a finalist for The National Book Award, an award he should definitely win with the strength of these stories. Unfortunately he didn't win. Instead, Denis Johnson won the award for... actually he won it for JESUS'S SON, but I guess you could say he won it for TREE OF SMOKE.

May 21, 2008 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008-reads
Let me first just clarify my rating system. If I give it four stars, that means I recommend it to you, Dear Reader, whoever you are. So don't take the lack of the fifth as a lack of enthusiasm! The fifth just signifies a) something I will reread and/or b) something that I was happy as a pig in shit while reading. SO, this puppy may get four stars, but I've been recommending it to everyone like John the Baptist recommended Jesus (please alert me if this is a crappy simile, because my Bible-readin ...more
May 26, 2010 Doug rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Take these eleven stories, deep dives into an enormously wide range of landscape and time, slowly. Let them curl around a bit on your brain before you set off for the next one and on the chance you're not connecting with one, give it time, you will get hooked and you will learn something about a time or place you didn't know before, I guarantee, and you will learn about these things through an empathy you perhaps didn't know you had…but Jim Shepard had a hunch you did. Spend time with a scribe o ...more
Mar 24, 2008 Jesse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the most underrated writers today, Shepard can stand toe-to-toe with any living American author. It is sad that he is not mentioned more in discussions about the top living writers in America. He seems to be to young to fit with Roth and Co. and to old (read traditional) to be grouped with David Foster Wallace or Jonathan Franzen. Yet he writes short stories better than almost all of them (the sole exception being Roth's early stories which are as good as anything in American Literature). ...more
Patrick McCoy
Jim Shepherd’s 2007 short story collection, Like You’d Understand Anyway, was a finalist for the National Book Award and it’s easy to see why. It is a masterly collection of stories that range from heartfelt and painful tales of adolescence (“Proto-Scorpions of the Silurian,” ”Trample the Dead, Hurdle the Weak,” and “Courtesy For Beginners”) to exhaustively realistically researched historical tales of the past (Roman soldiers-“Hadarian’s Wall,” Nazi naturalists chasing Yetis-“Ancestral Legacies, ...more
Oct 15, 2007 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This excellent, engaging collection of stories takes a remarkably broad look at masculine experiences throughout the ages, with emotional depth and a great deal of wit. The stories concern everyone from Chernobyl engineers to 19th century explorers in Australia to soldiers on Hadrian's wall to German anthropologist on the hunt for the Yeti in the 1930s to an executioner in the French Revolution to a miserable Connecticut teenager at summer camp in the 70s. One story has at its center a woman, th ...more
Linda Robinson
Feb 02, 2012 Linda Robinson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Took two days to contemplate the cover art and the title. Humans have issues. Issues with fathers, brothers, inattentive loved ones, the enemy sailing to your harbor with ten thousand swords, duty, rotten jobs featuring sharp blades, and reentry shortcomings. And humans write. Not many of them write as well as Shepard.
May 16, 2008 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was so overwhelmingly male that I thought the title was actually mocking me. Whether it was a tale of Yeti hunters or Chernobyl engineers or Hadrian's soldiers or a high school football star, the stories were irrevocably masculine. I do thank Shepherd, though, for lending credence to my long-held theory that The Who is a band for boys.
Kevin Fanning
I read about half of it but didn't finish it. It's good, they're short stories, they're extremely well written, etc. There was just on real magic happening for me. Probably good for people who like Alice Munro, Grace Paley, things in the New Yorker.

I still think this is the best title for a book ever. I just wish the book had been about high school.
Apr 05, 2011 Shan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Really solid, engaging, and enjoyable. These stories take place in various lands and time periods, and a number of them must have required a pretty impressive level of research (one takes place at Chernobyl, another in the early days of the Russian space program, another among the executioners of revolutionary France).
Feb 15, 2008 G rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While it didn't have as strong a selection as "Love and Hydrogen", I love the way in which Shepard takes obscure, and not-so-obscure, historical characters and imbues them with a "modern" psychology that they had all along. And the stories set in the present day are equally striking.
More historical short fiction from Jim Shepard.

"The Zero Meter Diving Team" is a first person, present tense account (but a present tense account that moves to past tense for most of the story) of Boris Yakovlevich Prushinsky, chief engineer of the Dept. of Nuclear Energy. HIs younger brother, Mikhail, was a turbine engineer working at the Chernobyl reactor on 26 April 1986, when its core melted down. Prushinsky indicts Soviet bureaucracy as well as his own aloofness regarding his family, espec
Stories Read:
The Zero Meter Diving Team*
Proto-Scorpions of the Silurian
Trample the Dead, Hurdle the Weak*
Ancestral Legacies
Eros 7
Courtesy for Beginners

*2 particular favorites
Oh, I think I understand a bit, Mr. Shepard. Perhaps too much, unfortunately. Beautifully written stories with themes of brothership, expedition, and regret.

4/5 Stars
Jul 09, 2010 Harkinna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Both Tunneling to the Center of the Earth and Like you Would Understand, Anyway, read quickly. When books are that good it kind of makes you sad. I read Wilson’s book on the plane to Idaho and savored Shepard’s book for months, having a short story here and there as I felt the need.

One problem I have with short stories is that they are usually sad. Nothing ever really ends well in a short story, so when I find authors who are able to get past the sad short story, I rejoice. Shepard, a professor
Derek Tepe
Oct 24, 2013 Derek Tepe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really excellent collection of short stories, all of which I think share a unifying message: Take the time to understand something that you see from one angle by changing your perspective, and you'll get a more complete picture of the truth. Each story puts a relatable and sympathetic human in the middle of extremely trying events that someone with only a cursory understanding of would see very differently. The opening story, for example, is about scientists working at Chernobyl the day of the ...more
Aug 28, 2012 Gemma rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
Most artists have a style. It's something you recognize their work by, some signature form that they use that marks their work as no one but their own. Sometimes, that style is liberating and new - think "Nude Descending a Staircase" or some Wagnerian march. But sometimes that style is prison - at it's worst, it's M. Night Shyamalan. This particular Jim Shepard falls somewhere between the two. He's a man after my own heart, Mr. Shepard, fascinated with history and frequently bringing it into his ...more
Sep 08, 2009 Vicki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shepard has a great gift for language. These stories are so wide-ranging that for the first several I was dumbfounded by the breadth of his imagination. As the book progresses, certain themes emerge: all but one of his protagonists are male, with serious father and/or brother issues; all of the adults are isolated by their positions as history-makers (explorers, warriors, cosmonauts, the executioner for all of Paris during the Terrors, you get the idea); all of the children are overburdened, aba ...more
Dec 11, 2007 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Saba Afshar
Recommended to Amanda by: RandomReads
One of the best short story collections I've read. This is my first time reading Shepard, and I was definitely impressed. His range of characters is so diverse (well, not quite... I'll get to that in a minute) and so well-written -- from a high-school football player, to an SS yeti-seeker in Tibet, to Aeschylus (no joke), each time he shoots he hits his mark. Highly recommended for everyone -- it's just normal enough, just a little bit weird enough.

My only problem with it:
So, it becomes pretty c
Jul 15, 2008 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection of short stories that had been published originally in Tin House, Harpers, Ploughshares, and McSweeney's, is simply amazing. Jim Shepard has published six novels and several other collections, but this is the first work of his that I have encountered. I recommend this collection very highly.

The premises alone are enough to guarantee a good read. Shepard gives us stories from the perspective of Sans Farine, the official executioner of the French Revolution, the Greek dramatist Aes
Jun 08, 2009 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
plugging my way through jim shepard's "like you'd understand, anyway" on a jim scott recommendation. it's been a tough one. people ask me what it is/is about/if it's good. my answers never seem to encourage reading. i'm not entirely sure why. obviously i continue to read murakami despite a blatant formula. i'm wary of shepard's collection of stories though. i think it's because he so consistently chooses a historical site and inserts a contemporary consciousness. on the one hand this is valuable ...more
Nov 22, 2007 K rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The title of this collection does not quite suit it, since it suggests and glibness of tone that is satisfyingly absent in the stories themselves. They take the form of first person narratives from a fascinating range of (mostly male) characters, including:
--a Russian technocrat whose brothers are on site during the Chernobyl explosion
--a Roman clerk stationed at Hadrian's wall
--a teenage football player in Texas
--a Nazi in search of the yeti
--an explorer leading a death march through the centra
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Shepard was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He received a B.A. at Trinity College in 1978 and an MFA from Brown University in 1980. He currently teaches creative writing and film at Williams College. His wife, Karen Shepard, is also a novelist. They are on the editorial board of the literary magazine The Common, based at Amherst College.[1]

Shepard's work has been published in McSween
More about Jim Shepard...

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“I channel the rote and the new and unseen. My head has always been the busiest of crossroads, a festival of happy and unhappy arrivals. In the hours before daybreak when I was a boy, god sent me words as visitors.” 3 likes
“But what I did was the kind of thing you'd do and the kind of thing you've done: I felt bad for him and for myself and I went on with my week and then my summer and I started telling my story to whoever would listen. And my story was this: I survived camp. I survived my brother. I survived my own bad feelings. Love me for being so sad about it. Love me for knowing what I did. Love me for being in the lifeboat after everyone else went under. And my story made me feel better and it made me feel worse. And it worked.” 3 likes
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