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Love and Hydrogen: New and Selected Stories

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Overview

I’ve been a problem baby, a lousy son, a distant brother, an off-putting neighbor, a piss-poor student, a worrisome seatmate, an unreliable employee, a bewildering lover, a frustrating confidante and a crappy husband. Among the things I do pretty well at this point I’d have to list darts, re-closing Stay-Fresh boxes, and staying out of the way.

This is the self-eulogy offered early on by the unwilling hero of the opening story in this collection, a dazzling array of work in ...

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Love and Hydrogen: New and Selected Stories

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Overview

I’ve been a problem baby, a lousy son, a distant brother, an off-putting neighbor, a piss-poor student, a worrisome seatmate, an unreliable employee, a bewildering lover, a frustrating confidante and a crappy husband. Among the things I do pretty well at this point I’d have to list darts, re-closing Stay-Fresh boxes, and staying out of the way.

This is the self-eulogy offered early on by the unwilling hero of the opening story in this collection, a dazzling array of work in short fiction from a master of the form. The stories in Love and Hydrogen—familiar to readers from publications ranging from McSweeney’s to The New Yorker to Harper’s to Tin House—encompass in theme and compassion what an ordinary writer would seem to need several lifetimes to imagine.

A frustrated wife makes use of an enterprising illegal-gun salesman to hold her husband hostage; two hapless adult-education students botch their attempts at rudimentary piano but succeed in a halting, awkward romance; a fascinated and murderous Creature welcomes the first human visitors to his Black Lagoon; and in the title story, the stupefyingly huge airship Hindenburg flies to its doom, representing in 1937 mankind's greatest yearning as well as its titanic failure.

Generous in scope and astonishing in ambition, Shepard’s voice never falters; the virtuosity of Love and Hydrogen cements his reputation as, in the words of Rick Bass, “a passionate writer with a razor-sharp wit and an elephantine heart”—in short, one of the most powerful talents at work today.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is one of the most important collections in years, because Shepard does so many things that are all too rare in the medium. He gives us red-blooded characters who leave the living room and fly, kayak, dive, search, and emerge from swamps to devour unwitting campers. Stories about dissolving marriages are fine, but how about two gay engineers on the Hindenberg? Or a 19th century man searching for a giant half-shark/half-whale? These are uniformly bold and exhilarating stories. Let's hope Shepard becomes as influential as he should be. He's the best we've got."
--Dave Eggers

"In a first-rate gathering of 22 stories, bizarre premises drawn from history and popular culture share space with moving examinations of deranged family dynamics . . . Adventurous and enthralling work from one of the most interesting of all contemporary American writers."
--Kirkus, starred review

"These are some of my favorite short stories of the past decade. Reading them is like encountering our national literature in microcosm: multiform and polyrhythmic, violent and fanciful, erudite and hard-boiled, built on twin foundations of nostalgia for the never-was, and of that millennial American optimism that is indistinguishable from despair."
--Michael Chabon

“Jim Shepard’s access to different voices, social types, levels of experience, is truly astonishing. He has observed deeply, and his selection of detail from that observation is brilliant. This is the work of a deft, audacious artist.” --Norman Rush

“Shepard’s writing is lean, assured, never canned; it is sometimes cinematic and often astringently funny. He reconstructs the ordinary and offers the surreal as a given, [finding] highly original ways into the most moving stories.” --Amy Hempel

The New York Times
Aside from mental illness, what is it that devastates, in Shepard's estimation? Our world, he seems to be saying, over and over, is both animated and rent asunder by boyishness, of all things. The boyish impulse -- to dabble in amateur naturalism, to play with elaborate toys like firearms, rockets, bathyspheres and zeppelins -- is everywhere in Love and Hydrogen. ''They worked with their hands to retool the world,'' the narrator of ''Climb Aboard the Mighty Flea'' proclaims joyously of the men who flew a rocket-powered German fighter plane at a stage in its development when to do so was to harbor a serious death wish, a fact that only seems to exhilarate the narrator further. — Stephen Metcalf
Kirkus Reviews
In a first-rate gathering of 22 stories, bizarre premises drawn from history and popular culture share space with moving examinations of deranged family dynamics. Of those reprints from Shepard's first collection, Batting Against Castro (1996), the standouts are the title story's elliptical view of pre-Castro Cuba as experienced by a jaded former major leaguer, a chilling picture of a violently sexist football superstar ("Messiah"), and a tale of fraternal rivalry and misunderstanding that makes deft use of a science-fiction boys' game played with trading cards. The eight newer pieces likewise range widely and well, from a disturbing "ripping yarn" about a Tasmanian scientist's compulsive pursuit of a monstrous prehistoric shark ("Astounding Stories") to a (really quite ingenious) explanation of the human technical failings that caused the explosion of the Hindenburg ("Love and Hydrogen"). Elsewhere, a marriage burdened and strengthened by the presence of a sick child is thrown into relief by a couple's participation in the making of a historical film epic ("Alicia and Emmett with the 17th Lancers at Balaclava"); "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" offers his version of the story told by the popular B-movie; and "John Ashcroft: More Important Things Than Me" finds a complex humanity in the much-maligned Attorney General's stoical conservatism. Even better are such unconventional domestically oriented stories as that of a suburban husband held hostage by his armed and resentful wife ("The Gun Lobby"), a teenaged narrator's revelation of how his emotionally combative family is held together by his irrepressibly vital father ("The Mortality of Parents"), and a high-achieving volcanologist'sguilty confession of distancing himself from his troubled older sibling, a misfit "too disturbed to function and not disturbed enough to be put away." The latter in particular is a classic example of a story informed and energized by a brilliant central metaphor. Adventurous and enthralling work from one of the most interesting of all contemporary American writers. (See below.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400033492
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/27/2004
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries Original Series
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 795,381
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Table of Contents

The Gun Lobby 3
Love and Hydrogen 15
Mars Attacks 33
Glut Your Soul on my Accursed Ugliness 49
The Creature from the Black Lagoon 61
Runway 73
Ajax is all about Attack 87
Eustace 105
The Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich 121
Reach for the Sky 135
Alicia and Emmett with the 17th Lancers at Balaclava 141
The Mortality of Parents 155
Astounding Stories 167
Spending the Night with the Poor 187
Descent into Perpetual Night 199
John Ashcroft: More Important Things than Me 221
Messiah 241
Piano Starts Here 249
Batting Against Castro 263
Krakatau 283
Won't get Fooled Again 303
Climb Aboard the Mighty Flea 321
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2013

    Moon

    Yes i do.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2012

    Oh the humanity!

    Some of the short stories are great....others mediocre...others just too predictable.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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