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Nothing Happened and Then It Did: A Chronicle in Fact and Fiction

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  163 ratings  ·  48 reviews
In the great American tradition of funny road narratives— from Mark Twain to Hunter S. Thompson—a young journalist searches for his first big break down the lonesome highways of the Southwest and northern Mexico. Alternating chapters of fiction and nonfiction provide a hilarious account of Jake Silverstein’s misadventures on the hunt for an elusive magazine article—a journ ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published May 16th 2011 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2010)
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Average rating 3.37  · 
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Aug 01, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Short stories are often hit and miss. This mostly missed despite the laundry list of good reviews. Chapter 3 on the poetry competition in the casino had some good caricatures. I did like this opening to one story

"Summer in New Orleans is a long slow thing. Day and night, a heavy heat presides. Rivulets of sweat run down the necks and arms and legs of unlucky pedestrians. Dogs retreat under houses. Waiters stand idle at outdoor cafes, fanning themselves with menus. The unreasonable drives off to
Andrew Martin
11/22/2019 Update: If you want a book that blurs truth and fiction, just read The Things They Carried.

It's not often that a book leaves me totally dumbfounded, but that's what we've got here. The introduction does work to lay out Silverstein's thesis, but its purpose/significance/value as an exploration of the narrative form is never fully fleshed out. I've noticed other reviewers mention that the book is boring, a statement to which I'll push back and instead say that the narrative feels mostly
Hank Stuever
Mar 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was dazzled by the construction of this book and the fluctuations between true and imagined. For more of my thoughts about this book, go to my website and look for the One-Man Book Club entries. Months after I read this, I met Jake Silverstein on a panel at the Texas Book Festival; I guess that's something of a post-review disclosure, because now I really do think he rocks. ...more
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
To me this didn’t at all live up to an ambitious promise and premise - to fuck with fact and fiction through a really creative structure and ultimately examine the role of journalism amid all that. The seemingly out-of-the-blue conclusion did personally resonate though? There was some great writing and dry humor but it didn’t feel cohesive. Also honestly not something I usually notice let alone note, but the complete non-existence of women in the world he’s created here somehow really irked me. ...more
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Broadway o a Learning Journey on Interrupting Racism. I really enjoyed this book a lot. The writer lives with honesty and joy and hilarity. He writes exceptionally well, telling what could be a miserable story of a few years of his life (or maybe shorter). In it he has unbelievable adventures with amazing humans. It’s an impossible book to describe as the author simply takes you along on a journey in the south, southwest, and Mexico that could have only been taken by him.
Mandy Jo
Sep 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: texas-themed
This week’s headline? becoming a journalist

Why this book? The Magazine editor

Which book format? on the kindle

Primary reading environment? poolside in mexico

Any preconceived notions? title is goofy

Identify most with? inexperienced journalist behavior

Three little words? “Heidi has killed”

Goes well with? gorditas, Pollo Feliz

Recommend this to? those considering J-school

"To be a Gringo in Mexico – ah, that is euthanasia." –Ambrose Bierce

One thing about reading on the Kindle: sometimes, when you're
May 30, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite a long list of recommendations from friends and a "to-read" list that becomes less credible by the day, my favorite method of choosing a new book is to go to a bookstore and randomly judge a book by its cover. It goes against all my elementary school teachings and seems a little racist, but it's also exciting and is one of the few things for which real bookstores are more adept than Amazon. This method has produced great books (Twentysomething), good books (An Irish Country Doctor) and l ...more
Mar 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, fiction
Hey, this book is classified as fiction and non-fiction - what a thrill to be able to put it on two shelves, no? It is worth reading for that genre-bending feat as well. Of course, the shtick is just a shtick, as all fiction is filled with non- and all non- is filled with fiction.

Genre distractions aside, the book is a page-turner, even though it turned out that I had read two of the chapters before (one in the New Yorker, and one in Harpers). I was glad to get a chance to buzz through it all a
Aug 02, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Uneven, but frequently clever. The format of the book is ingenious, if a little precious: it switches off between fact and fiction every other chapter, and Silverstein labels the chapters because he does not "wish to deceive by passing off fiction as fact, as so many have done." The result is a patchwork novel-memoir chronicling the author's attempt (and spectacular failure) to be a real writer of some stripe, first a journalist and then a poet and then a journalist again. The first three chapte ...more
Chris Perry
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A meandering tale in both fact and fiction, Silverstein gets right at the heart of what constitutes a story. Each chapter alternates between fact and fiction, but the story flows so seamlessly that the reader is forced to wonder about what actually transpired to get from fact chapter to fact chapter. When Silverstein chases the drought story, only to be scooped by the New Yorker, he drives without purpose, and ends up in New Orleans. But this chapter is fiction! Why did he actually leave? A woma ...more
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In a nutshell, not a fan. Silverstein's novel of ramblings and wanderings around the desolete empty streets of the American southwest/Mexico was difficult to follow chronologically, mainly because it did not adhere to this format. I had forgotten once I started it that chapters were clearly idenfied in the table of contents as either fiction or fact and I completed the novel believing it was all non-fiction. And all I could think is that this guy is never going to make it as a journalist with al ...more
Apr 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
It started slow but ultimately I really, really enjoyed this first novel by Jake Silverstein.

I don't really care about the conceit--it's supposed to be part fiction and part fact. I read it as all fiction.

Jake, the narrator is on a quest to become a journalist. Yet he's never in the right place at the right time to actually make it happen. He meanders from West Texas to Mexico to Louisiana to Nevada and then back to Mexico. Over the course of many different vignettes and adventures, Jake's stor
Jul 15, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
So this book is literally half non-fiction and half "based on a true story," which irked me when I started, but to which I eventually acquiesced. It takes some time to find its rhythm, but by the end I must admit I enjoyed it. Silverstein's plan to kick around Texas and northern Mexico until he turns himself into a journalist seems like a relic of another time; when I checked his photo on the back cover flap halfway through, I was surprised by how young he is. It's not terrible to read. I do bel ...more
James Kingman
Oct 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps it is because Silverstein edits a monthly that I find excellent and enjoyable, or perhaps because long-form journalism is interesting when a journalist is involved but not navel-gazing, but this book is worth reading. David Foster Wallace is more dense, daunting, and delightful; Hunter S. Thompson more degenerate, dizzying, and depressing. Both are more successful at creating artistic long-form non-fiction. But Silverstein is not going for that. More than the phrenetic pieces that have a ...more
Jul 01, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This one seemed promising. A blend of fiction and non-fiction, and you're not sure where the lines are blurred. I was grabbed by the local narrative - west Texas, with place as a character. Of course I knew (just by the title alone) that the book was going to wander, but . . . we were all over the place, and eventually, one would think a bit more of a narrative thread would be developed. We lost West Texas way too soon, dabbled briefly in New Orleans, then off to spend time with somewhat unappea ...more
May 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories, essays
It's believable but is it reliable? It feels true in spirit, if not in reality. The setting and atmosphere overlap a book I recently read, "Some of the Dead are Still Breathing", but this mingling of fact and fiction in the Southwest is much better.

The author/narrator is on a quest of sorts: to find out where he fits in, to "get a life". He focuses on journalism, narrating the story he is making of himself through the stories of others. And we, the readers, can vicariously do the same.

Oct 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this immensely. This is a mostly non-fiction account of a would-be newspaper reporter who is looking for a big story/big break, who tells us about looking into Ambrose Bierce's death in west Texas, drought conditions there, hunting for pirate treasure in Louisiana bayous, entering a poetry contest in Las Vegas, and other stories/adventures that he is drawn into - apparently mostly true, but some element of a Texas tall tale exists in every story, which may or may not be actual fact. I ...more
Aug 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book purports to alternate fictional chapters with nonfiction chapters, but once a book makes a claim like that it is hard to know what to believe. Silverstein is a journalist and this book is a quasi-memoir, telling stories about his time roaming west Texas and northern Mexico, and trying to write a big journalistic piece about things like droughts and car races and searches for treasure and entering poetry contests at casinos in Reno, often being scooped by The New Yorker or just hitting ...more
Sep 13, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: texas, american
There was a lot of nothing happening, or at least of things almost happening, in this book-- finding Ambrose Bierce in West Texas, winning a poetry contest, finding lost treasure in Louisiana, and getting scooped on magazine stories. It's kind of like a lot of Texas Monthly articles put together. I liked most of the stories, but things really slowed down in Mexico and the whole car race episode was way too long. It ended on a good note with the shorthand-writing man searching for his sister. I l ...more
Sep 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Interesting mishmash of fact and fiction (at least I think it was a mishmash - it sounded like it might have been more fact). Silverstein decides to be a journalist with the theory if he goes somewhere off the beaten path, he has a better chance of capturing the "big" story before he gets scooped. Turns out, not many big stories come his way but he does have some interesting adventures revolving around buried pirate treasure, a McDonalds in Mexico and a dangerous Mexican road race among other th ...more
Steven Pattison
Apr 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Before becoming the editor of Texas Monthly - Jake Silverstein aspired to be journalist who would become a "roving eyeball looking for truth". In his first book, a mix of fact & fiction that follows him on his travels from Marfa to Midland to New Orleans to Reno and Mexico.

A really fun read - great stories and memorable characters, the writing style to me is reminiscent of Chuck Klosterman and Bill Bryson - good stuff.
Jul 13, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
i'm not sure why i picked this book up; reviewing the description, there's nothing about it that seems like the sort of thing i usually read. i guess my chief complaint about it is the accuracy of its title; the most interesting character in the whole book appears in the final chapter, 30 pages from the end, and then it's over. if it were a longer book i probably wouldn't have finished it, but its brevity and the occasion of a long car ride pushed me through it. ...more
Mark McKenna
Feb 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I give this book five BIG stars. A confession: I like quirky. In "Nothing Happened and Then It Did: A Chronicle in Fact and Fiction" Jake Silverstein has given us a picaresque tour of America, Mexico and journalism; a tour filled with soul and quirkiness. He has a polished style and regularly comes up with great (I mean Great!) one-liners and subtle observations. A book for adults, or advanced-reader teens, heartily recommended. ...more
Jun 22, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Silverstein presents a book in half fiction, and half non-fiction -- chronicling his adventures as an aspiring journalist. Some chapters drag with details, some engaged me more (I tended to find the fiction more intriguing), but all experiences believably fit into the narrator's story. Originally picked this book out in a thrift store because of the cover art, title, and reviews on the back. Overall, an enjoyable read. ...more
Apr 20, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
the title gives it away as to tone, pace and conclusion. but nothing really happens. peopled with several unique characters but really not that interesting, but for the last one. the writer is good, but there really is nothing there. a vanity project, perhaps. but then again that's what these words are. ...more
Christy Grant Glaze
I enjoyed this book...for a while. And eventually I realized that I wasn't really going anywhere so I just stopped reading it. It's basically several small adventures of a moderately interesting character, but there's not much of an overarching plot so it doesn't really hold one's attention from chapter to chapter. ...more
Jun 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very funny book that (perhaps) straddles the line between fact and fiction. He labeled some chapters as fact and some as fiction, but I doubt it was as clear-cut as that.

The fact is that most of these events certainly could have happened. Anyone who has ever been to Far West Texas (Marfa, Terlingua) knows that it is a very weird place.
Aug 07, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: summer-fiction
Does anyone else get the feeling that Silverstein was reading Charles Portis while he wrote this book? I would have given this an extra star if I didn't feel defrauded. Read this along with Dog of the South or Gringos and Silverstein's characters are like pale ghosts of classic Portis characters. ...more
Janel Atlas
Aug 18, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: not-finished
While I liked Silverstein's writing voice, I found him, as a character (as opposed to a narrator) dastardly boring. Everything happens *to* him. I kept waiting for him to make something happen for himself, but I finally gave up just a few chapters from the end.

Oh, and it's a combination of fact and fiction. Which kind of leaves me wondering which part is which. Not a good thing.
Mar 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A too-close-to-home account of freelance writing, or its beginnings anyway. Some genuinely funny parts (especially the characterization of the New Yorker writers/photographers), quite a few quotable sections. The fact/fiction conceit that seems strange at first, is illuminated as the narrative thread is unwound.
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Jake Silverstein is the editor of Texas Monthly and a contributing editor at Harpers magazine. He lives in Austin, Texas. This is his first book." ...more

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