A pointillist master of middle-American disaffection, second-shoe-dropping comic rhythm, pop-cult radiation, and the deceivingly unsimple art of inarticulation, Jim Shepard might be considered a national treasure if he'd show off more—write a Big Novel, say, or manufacture a book that sundered fiction's beloved rules instead of using them as sniper bullets. As it is, he is a writer best appreciated for the incomprehensible madness that manifests between his laconic lines of narrative, as well as for his refusal to peacock his prose at the expense of his none-too-sharp, painfully honest characters. It's a matter of voice—you can hear Shepard's pauses, throat clearings, and patient breath-holdings, as the words drop dry as toast crumbs. Think of it as Raymond Carver's dour, fastidious no-bullshit-ness nipple-twisted... More >>>