Sunday, April 20, 2008

Like You'd Understand, Anyway by Jim Shepard

I confess I didn't read all of the stories in this National Book Award finalist collection but that wasn't a judgment on their quality--more that I had a lot of other things to read (I've been moving steadily through Infinite Jest, for one) and it was due back at the library. But this is an interesting collection because a lot of the stories are moments in history but not all of them are, and they're not all about the same moment in history (they range from the twentieth century Chernobyl meltdown to Ancient Romans). In other words, no forced links. Hurrah! And they surely run far afield from the author's own experiences. My graduate class recently had a conversation about how the time constraints of workshop tend to prevent students from writing historical fiction (no time for the research), which is a real shame, since when writing historical fiction the beginning writer can get some real help with both plot and detail via that research. And I've always been a fan of Toni Morrison's quote that as a subject "the future seems finite, it's the past that's infinite."

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