Caitlin Constantine's Reviews > You Think That's Bad

You Think That's Bad by Jim Shepard
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Mar 03, 2011

really liked it

Until I read this book, I hadn't realized how much the authors I generally read tend to limit themselves when it came to characters and settings. In fact, I hadn't really thought about that at all. And then I read these stories, most of which are set outside of the United States and many of which are not set in the late 20th century/early 21st century, and suddenly those limitations have become painfully evident.

Maybe the reason why you don't see it that often is because of the tremendous amount of research necessary to bring unfamiliar cultures, time periods and landscapes to life. Shepard's acknowledgement/resources page is evidence of how much extra work this kind of writing requires, how it's not enough to spend time hibernating within your imagination, stewing in your own experiences - at least, not if you are going to do it right.

But oh, how that extra effort is worth it! The cumulative result of all of the stories in all of those settings is the realization that, even though we may be separated by time and culture and geography, the experience of being human - what it means to love, to feel pain, to cause pain, to feel desperately alone, to feel driven by deep-seated compulsions that no sense of duty can override - these are things that have not changed much.

Not only are the stories sensitively written, but they are so textured, so full of subtext and ideas, they practically demand they be read and re-read. There is no way a single reading, even an attentive one, is enough to capture all of that.

I would recommend this book to just about anyone. I enjoyed it that much. Even the stories that were not so excellent - and there were a couple - were still worth reading.
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