You Think That's Bad by Jim Shepard

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Following Like You’d Understand, Anyway—awarded the Story Prize and a finalist for the National Book Award—Jim Shepard returns with an even more wildly diverse collection of astonishingly observant stories. Like an expert curator, he populates the vastness of human experience—from its bizarre fringes and lonely, breathtaking pinnacles to the hopelessly mediocre and desperately below average—with brilliant scientists, reluctant soldiers, workaholic artists, female explorers, depraved murderers, and deluded losers, all wholly convincing and utterly fascinating.

A “black world” operative at Los Alamos isn’t allowed to tell his wife anything about his daily activities, but he can’t resist sharing her intimate confidences with his work buddy. A young Alpine researcher falls in love with the girlfriend of his brother, who was killed in an avalanche he believes he caused. An unlucky farm boy becomes the manservant of a French nobleman who’s as proud of his military service with Joan of Arc as he’s aroused by the slaughter of children. A free-spirited autodidact, grieving her lost sister, traces the ancient steps of a ruthless Middle Eastern sect and becomes the first Western woman to travel the Arabian deserts. From the inventor of the Godzilla epics to a miserable G.I. in New Guinea, each comes to realize that knowing better is never enough.

Enthralling and unfailingly compassionate, You Think That’s Bad traverses centuries, continents, and social strata, but the joy and struggle that Shepard depicts with such devastating sensitivity—all the heartbreak, alienation, intimacy, and accomplishment—has a universal resonance.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Jim Shepard

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Jim Shepard is the author of six novels and three previous story collections. His stories are published regularly in such magazines as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, McSweeney's, Tin House, Zoetrope: All-Story, Playboy, and Vice, among others. "The Netherlands Lives with Water," from this collection, appears in The Best American Short Stories 2010. "Your Fate Hurtles Down at You," also from this collection, appears in PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2011. He lives with his wife and their three children in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
Published March 22, 2011 by Vintage. 240 pages
Genres: Action & Adventure, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for You Think That's Bad

Kirkus Reviews

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In “Boys Town,” a psychologically beleaguered vet and wife abuser who lives with his mother opens his account: “Here’s the story of my life: whatever I did wasn’t good enough, anything I figured out I figured out too late, and whenever I tried to help I made things worse.” The accuracy of his sel...

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The New York Times

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Jim Shepard’s research helps bring catastrophic fiction to life, though the characters may not survive.

Apr 01 2011 | Read Full Review of You Think That's Bad

New York Journal of Books

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Because these are not the stories to read when trying to calm the mind for sleep at night, or the stories that will get you through a head cold or flu, these stories are filled with Medusa eyes, things that will, if you look directly at them, turn your heart to stone.The question is, does the rea...

Mar 22 2011 | Read Full Review of You Think That's Bad

AV Club

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In Jim Shepard’s short-story collection You Think That’s Bad, characters are pitted against a natural world positively Herzogian in its animosity to man, but the global-warming-abetted flooding, skier-swallowing avalanches, and flesh-rotting heat and humidity are just stand-ins for impending emot...

Apr 28 2011 | Read Full Review of You Think That's Bad

Los Angeles Times

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In his latest, Jim Shepard leads his characters — and his readers — right up to the point of obliteration, leaving us exhilarated and despairing at once.

Apr 10 2011 | Read Full Review of You Think That's Bad

Oregon Live

Shepard's 2007 collection "Like You'd Understand, Anyway" was a most worthy finalist for the National Book Award, and his stunning new collection "You Think That's Bad" is potent enough to stamp Shepard as one of this generation's short story masters.

Apr 16 2011 | Read Full Review of You Think That's Bad

Review (Barnes & Noble)

(It appeared in last year's edition of Best American Short Stories .) In this tale, Shepard strikes a hair's-breadth balance between gathering apocalyptic events and the fraying marriage of the reticent narrator and his wife.

Mar 29 2011 | Read Full Review of You Think That's Bad

The Daily Beast

In just a few pages Jim Shepard's short stories do the work of entire novels in capturing different places and times.

Mar 23 2011 | Read Full Review of You Think That's Bad

Chicago Tribune

The hope that such disparate wellsprings of emotion can be reconciled - or at least, the conflict between them minimized - becomes a driving force in Shepard's stories.

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Bookmarks Magazine

The Story: Jim Shepard's stories are united across continents and time by the shared strengths and weaknesses of their protagonists: they are ambitious men who are bent on success, who are prone to self-deception, and whose personal lives are in disarray.

Mar 27 2011 | Read Full Review of You Think That's Bad

Chamber Four

You Think That’s Bad offers 11 stories inspired by a diverse array of subjects, from flood control and avalanche research to World War II and the Japanese film industry.

May 25 2011 | Read Full Review of You Think That's Bad

Time Out Chicago

In both of these stories, the tragedies that animate the characters hide in the background: Hiroshima and Nagasaki are recent memories for Tsuburaya, and the researcher’s brother was killed in an avalanche.

Apr 20 2011 | Read Full Review of You Think That's Bad

Full Stop

The stories collected within You Think That’s Bad connect the distant past to the yet-experienced future in globetrotting style.

Mar 14 2011 | Read Full Review of You Think That's Bad

Daily Camera

One story, "The Netherlands Lives With Water," is set in the near future, when global warming has unleashed flooding and storms of biblical proportion, and Europe is looking to the Dutch -- whose flat, low-lying country has been trying to hold back the North Sea for centuries -- for the technolog...

Jul 12 2011 | Read Full Review of You Think That's Bad

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