One of the items on my 2008 reading agenda was to read more short story collections. Jim Shepard’s collection, the National Book Award-winning Like You’d Understand, Anyway seemed like a good bet.
Like You’d Understand, Anyway is a stunning achievement and is unlike any short story collection that I have ever read. Each of the stories is set in a very specific time and place, like Colonial Australia, a Soyuz space capsule, an Ancient Greek battle, Revolutionary Paris, a high school football field, Chernobyl, etc. The stories’ settings are incredibly well detailed. The amount of research that must have gone into this collection is staggering.
The grapplers on the cover are a metaphor for Shepard’s stories that feature men (with the exception of a female Cosmonaut) wrestling with themselves, responsibility, history, and the expectations of others. The stories also tend to be action driven with little of the navel gazing that derails some short stories. This is an excellent collection for people that don’t like to read short stories – and, of course, for those that do.
I have bought three copies of this book to date. The first two were bought as gifts for other people, and the third, finally, was for me. It’s entirely possible that I’ll buy another copy of the book for future gifts. Pick up a copy of two for yourself.