Vicki's Reviews > Like You'd Understand, Anyway

Like You'd Understand, Anyway by Jim Shepard
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's review
Sep 08, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: short-stories-essays
Read in October, 2009 — I own a copy

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, abandoned, overlooked.

At first I was bothered by the dude-centricity of all the stories, but when he did write a female main character she was so laughably unbelievable as a person that I realized Shepard was only following the old "write what you know" chestnut, and that he should've stuck with it to the end.

Standouts: Trample the Dead, Hurdle the Weak; My Aeschylus.

Because I can't resist, here are some bits from Trample the Dead, Hurdle the Weak (about a kid playing elite Texas high school football):

"Around here, Big Coach likes to remind us, we live under the shade of trees we didn't plant and drink from wells we didn't dig. There's a shitload of tradition, is what he means.

Wainwright's the main upholder of that tradition as far as everybody else is concerned. Players for other teams: they're wearing another color and they're on his field. He takes it personally.

I try to ride that wave but there are mean dogs and mad dogs, and it's not that easy to make the leap."

"He would've had scholarships to Kent State and Utah State, but he tanked on his grades his senior year. He comes to the games partway through the first half and sits on the opponent's side. He takes credit for my being All-State. He's probably right. By the time I got to Pop Warner, when kids my own age would hit me, I'd be like: please."

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