Monday, September 22, 2008

Shepard: Too Busy Being Enthralled

Monday, September 22, 2008

Too Busy Being Enthralled

See the rave review of Jim Shepard’s new story collection by child-lit phenomenon “Lemony Snicket” (AKA Daniel Handler):

In all his work, Shepard is after something our current literature far too often avoids. The short-story form, in particular, has fallen lately into two camps: the realistic kind (in which one of a small quiver of pyschological tropes is played out quietly in a few scenes) and the experimental kind (in which an unusual premise or point of view that would grow tiring in a novel is explored, often with a sudden twist). These are both very readable forms, and much gorgeous prose can be found stretched on their frames. Yet Shepard somehow manages to write simultaneously in both of them — and neither of them. His far-ranging plots aren’t illustrations of the usual conclusions, and he doesn’t tackle an unusual premise just to prove that he can. Instead, he has found a route through these terrains that leads to end points both surprising and inevitable. In other words, he’s telling stories. That this should feel like an original approach is testimony to how bracing his work really is…. Shepard is an impressive writer, but I wasn’t impressed until I finished the book: I was too busy being enthralled.

Note: Fiction writer Jim Shepard will visit the Writers Institute on Thursday, September 25, 2008. He will hold an informal workshop at 4:15PM in Campus Center 375, on the University at Albany’s uptown campus, 1400 Washington Ave. He will also present a reading of new work, and offer a Q&A at 8PM in the Standish Room of the Science Library on the uptown campus. Free and open to the public.