Skip to main content

What I'm Reading Right Now: Jim Shepard

I both love and hate Jim Shepard.  Love, because his stories are so ridiculously good.  Hate, because his stories are so ridiculously good.  Sometimes I wish I could program my brain to work like his just for one day.  I'm currently devouring his 2011 collection of short stories you think that's bad (he didn't capitalize it, so neither will I).  It's so much fun to read.  Every single story is transportive and I was trying to put my finger on all the reasons why that is the case.  The most obvious reason is the setting.  Each story is carefully placed in a land unfamiliar to me: the Netherlands in the near future, New Guinea, the Alps.  Each setting is vivid with weather and language and a sense of cultural flavor.  But I realized this morning that he actually accomplishes the whole setting thing through the use of the character's job.  What the character does for a living, whether it is climate control, military, or avalanche research, it's the specificities of the type of employment that create a transportive story.  For one thing, the characters all have jobs that are wildly different from anything I've ever done, and often have ones I really prefer to never have (avalanche researcher?  I don't even like to put my head under water).  But each character seems so perfectly wedded to their job in a way real people are, viewing the world in a distinct way based on how you put in your forty-plus hours a week.  It's transportive because I get to step into their shoes and because Shepard is so dang good at rendering something so fully and so authentically, I am immersed in their daily, hourly concerns.


I too often constrain myself to giving my characters types of employment that are familiar to me (all those poor souls I've made suffer in office settings).  It takes boldness and research and sitting with the details long enough to understand how they would impact the character to make the leap into rendering such unfamiliar vocations.  Perhaps in my year of joblessness/writing, that's exactly the kind of challenge I should be trying.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

My Litquake 2012 Report

I've been avoiding putting this together, because a part of me really doesn't want this year's Litquake festival to be over already.  The other part of me is still cranky-tired, wandering around trying to get to all those projects I said I'd get to after Litquake, and feeling post-Christmas like. In short, this year's Litquake was AMAZING.  Every year has been awesome, but this one was particularly special for me because I got to actually help plan the awesome.  As a volunteer during the festival for the past several years, I definitely felt like I contributed to making each event I helped at awesome, but this year, being on the committee,* I got to witness the tremendous build up to the festival that happens the whole year prior.  The amount of love, sweat and time that goes into it is incredible, and I'm not sure I've ever been part of something so cool.  Which is not to say I'm not still cranky-tired and looking forward to feeling fully recovered.

For Mom, Twenty-One Years Later

I lost my mom twenty-one years ago today. She died from complications related to a long battle with chronic-progressive multiple sclerosis. I was a week away from turning twenty-one. Which means I have not had her as long as I did have her. It used to make me unique among my friends, to have lost a parent at such a young age. But I’m no longer young and many friends have joined this depressing club. The dues are astronomical and no one prepares refreshments. People, moms are important. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Whether you were once a child or are currently a mom. They are the sun, moon, and stars, even when they are completely obscured by darkness. I wish she mattered less. She doesn’t. She matters more than almost anything: that first hit of love, that childhood sense of safety, that initial understanding of what it means to be a woman in the world: mom. Mom in 1974-ish Memory is funny when it comes to dead people: I can remember her any way I

Obsessions

Things I'm mild-to-excessively obsessed with currently: The color orange .  Specifically, International Orange, or the color of the Golden Gate Bridge.   Flags on display at the International Orange exhibit last month at Fort Mason A faux-store of all International Orange things, from the same exhibit.  Me want!! Some StickyWords from under the bridge And the newly repainted writing desk!  Now in Daredevil Orange (thanks to three coats of Sherwin Williams this weekend).  Much less clashy with the rest of the house now.  Next project: corral those ugly looking cords on the side. For about a year now, orange has been my new favorite color.  It's just so dang happy looking.   Sutro Tower It's a very local icon.  You can spot it almost anywhere in the city, if it's not ensconced in fog, but it is so beautiful when it is ensconced.  (Sorry, I also watched a bunch of Anne of Green Gables lately, so I'm all Lake of Shining Waters-y in m