In the misbegotten argot of our times I am a Jim Shepard early adopter. I first came across the Williams College mentor where he is J. Leland Miller Professor of American History, Literature, and Eloquence) for his novel Nosferatu circa 1998.
Needless to say, I have been something of a devoted reader ever since—avidly consuming his story collections You Think That’s Bad, Like You’d Understand, Anyway and Love and Hydrogen his fourth novel Project X and his latest opus, The Book of Aron (read Ron Charles extolling the Book Of Aron here).
Now the point of this brief is not necessarily to encourage you to read Shepard (a mission I will undertake when I publish my recent(the 4th or 5th) chat with Jim). No, I am much more interested in enthusing about Jim Shepard’s live readings. Over these many years I have sat through many author events that include an obligatory reading from the currently peddled text. No surprise —these performances are frequently less than riveting. There have been a handful of authors who are manage to infuse their live appearance with something both entertaining and informative. This may be an extreme point but ket me say that if were caught up in some kind of debacle (a stalled elevator, a plane delayed for hours on a runway, an interminable traffic jam and such) I would love to be in Shepard’s company. A self-confessed calamity aficionado, of whom it has been said, “Shepard is something of a patron saint of the maladapted”, and “[A] pointillist master of middle-American disaffection, second-shoe-dropping comic rhythm, pop-cult radiation, and the deceivingly unsimple art of in articulation”,Jim manages with brio and alacrity to leach out the humor in even the most dire of dramas (as in his latest story, of which it would be difficult to imagine something worse)
Now recently venturing forth from my zip code to catch Jim in conversation with Amy Hempel, I fully intended to record this worthy event with my small but mighty and unobtrusive video device. I must report I was restrained from accomplishing my goal by the officious and small-mindedness (I am tempted to say dishonest, but who knows what evil lurks in the minds of men) of the book store owner. Thus, I can only report that it was time well spent and encourage you to attend one of Jim’s numerous public events which are listed here
Happily, there are a number of recordings of Jim Shepard reading, joking, explicating, declaiming
and other things./ Here’s good one:
Find my 2007 conversation with Jim Shepard aT IDENTITYTHEORY.COM here.