We Live in Water

( 11 )

Overview

We Live in Water, the first collection of short fiction from New York Times bestselling author Jess Walter, is a suite of diverse, often comic stories about personal struggle and diminished dreams, all of them marked by the wry wit and generosity of spirit that has made him one of our most talked-about writers. In "Thief," a blue-collar worker turns unlikely detective to find out which of his kids is stealing from the family vacation fund. In "We Live in Water," a lawyer returns to a corrupt North Idaho town to ...

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We Live in Water

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Overview

We Live in Water, the first collection of short fiction from New York Times bestselling author Jess Walter, is a suite of diverse, often comic stories about personal struggle and diminished dreams, all of them marked by the wry wit and generosity of spirit that has made him one of our most talked-about writers. In "Thief," a blue-collar worker turns unlikely detective to find out which of his kids is stealing from the family vacation fund. In "We Live in Water," a lawyer returns to a corrupt North Idaho town to find the father who disappeared thirty years earlier. In "Anything Helps," a homeless man has to "go to cardboard" to raise enough money to buy his son the new Harry Potter book. In "Virgo," a local newspaper editor tries to get back at his superstitious ex-girlfriend by screwing with her horoscope. And the collection's final story transforms slyly from a portrait of Walter's hometown into a moving contemplation of our times.

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post - Michael Lindgren
Jess Walter…is as talented a natural storyteller as is working in American fiction these days…these stories have both zip and heart, muscle and soul…Walter works the margins of American life, depicting the homeless and incarcerated, the hopeless and the unlucky…It's especially pleasing to see him returning to the fatalistic noir concerns that dominated his earlier fiction. He has always had a flair for a certain kind of American scofflaw: the hustlers, gamblers, dealers and crooked cops whom he portrays with a knowing, sardonic affection.
The New York Times Book Review - Allison Glock
…Walter is unflinching and, possibly, a bit depressed, which is what happens to any compassionate, reasonable person who stares too closely at the world…[he] makes you laugh, then makes you feel a little queasy about it. This is the alchemy of the damned…Fortunately, Walter is a bighearted man who excels at writing about other bighearted, if broken, men. That generosity of spirit, coupled with Walter's seeming inability to look away from the messy bits, elevates these stories from dirges to symphonies.
Publishers Weekly
Title notwithstanding, most of the characters in Walter’s short stories live in Spokane, Wash., but they are often under water, or nearly so. Spokane, as Walter makes clear, bears little relationship to Portland or Seattle, the Pacific Northwest’s name-brand cities. There are no locavores here, and the one potential latte drinker is stuck in Spokane doing his court-mandated community service and prefers scotch, anyway. Walter (Beautiful Ruins) writes—beautifully—about hard luck divorced dads, addicts, con artists, working men trying to keep things together, and a few zombies who’ve made the Seattle of the future look a lot like the Spokane of the present, which Walter describes as a place where, no matter how big your house is, “you’re never more than three blocks from a bad neighborhood.” Both “Anything Helps” and “Don’t Eat Cat” (rule #1 for zombies trying to hold down a job and an apartment) are included in 2012 best-of anthologies, but good as they are, the star is the title story, a heartbreaker set in a formerly seedy, now touristed part of Idaho. Darkly funny, sneakily sad, these stories are very, very good. You know the way Web sites recommend books by saying if you liked this, you’ll like that? The algorithm for this debut collection is straightforward: if you like to read, you’ll like this book. Agent: Warren Frazier, John Hawkins and Associates. (Feb. 12)
All Things Considered - NPR
"Walter’s got a great ear and a genius for sympathy with America’s new dispossessed."
The Big Book - Marketplace.org
"There’s a certain magic that comes with reading a good story. Even one that’s not about a magical time…[Walter’s] collection is full of tragic characters — the homeless, the drug-addicted and those who have lost everything to gambling debts. But it is not without humor."
Bookreporter.com
“Displays... fearless, unflinching prose in these short stories.”
People Magazine
"…gritty, pitch-perfect collection…Walter wrings enlightenment from dark realities."
Portland Mercury
“Incrementally, profoundly, brutally, [Walter] pulls back the curtain… We Live in Water is a great collection, in fact, and an important contribution to the literature of our region.”
USA Today
“Vintage Walter…quirky. And fun.”
The Big Book Marketplace.org
“There’s a certain magic that comes with reading a good story. Even one that’s not about a magical time…[Walter’s] collection is full of tragic characters — the homeless, the drug-addicted and those who have lost everything to gambling debts. But it is not without humor.”
People
“…gritty, pitch-perfect collection…Walter wrings enlightenment from dark realities.”
Esquire
“This badass collection aligns itself... with Walter’s gritty, bighearted novels.”
People
“…gritty, pitch-perfect collection…Walter wrings enlightenment from dark realities.”
New York Times Book Review
“Walter is a bighearted man who excels at writing about other bighearted, if broken, men. That generosity of spirit coupled with Walter’s seeming inability to look away from the messy bits, elevates these stories from dirges to symphonies.”
Daily Beast
“Jess Walter, who is revered for his novels, shows a gritty side in these clear-cut stories... Each word is perfectly placed...[Walter] brings his first story collection to a smashing end.”
New York Times
His most bleakly funny, hard-edge book in years.
Esquire
“This badass collection aligns itself... with Walter’s gritty, bighearted novels.”
Shelf Awareness
“[Walter] can mine the least scintilla of humor and wit from his characters’ broken lives—people whose dreams will surely not come true but who somehow keep trying.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Brims with humanity. A-
Booklist
“Wildly entertaining and thought-provoking fiction from a prodigiously talented writer.”
NPR's All Things Considered
“Walter’s got a great ear and a genius for sympathy with America’s new dispossessed.”
Janet Maslin
“Mr. Walter brings (his) outlook to short-story writing easily, and with a vengeance… His most bleakly funny, hard-edge book in years.”
Seattle Times
“Deliver[s] unexpected laughs while playing with what it is we think we know…As a reader, I delight in Walter’s work. As a writer (humor me here), I curse. He’s so freakishly, fiendishly good, it isn’t fair.”
The Oregonian (Portland)
“With a cineaste’s eye, [Walter] mov[es] the action at a terrific pace, such velocity and narrative swing…What he makes us understand is bracing, clear. Fiction or no, it is here we see Walter as trusted interlocutor, saying, let me show you, this is where we are now.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“It is perhaps a grim and fatalistic vision that Jess Walter presents in We Live in Water, yet one that in today’s America seems all-too-recognizable; no, we may not all live in water, but at one time or another, we have all lived in Spokane.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“For over a year, I’ve been waiting for a story collection to floor me the way Alan Heathcock did with Volt. The 13 stories of Jess Walter’s We Live in Water come close.”
Newsday
“Black humor is what we expect from Jess Walter. What is different is that the stories give us a sense of the writer’s heart we haven’t gotten from the parade of bright novels.”
Kirkus Reviews
The debut story collection from Walter proves he's as skilled at satire and class commentary in the short form as in his novels (Beautiful Ruins, 2012, etc.). Most of the 13 stories here are set in the present-day Northwest, where the Great Recession has left middle-class family men bereft and brought the destitute into the spotlight. "Anything Helps" is told from the point of view of a homeless man whose effort to acquire a Harry Potter novel emphasizes his undoing as a stable parent. "Statistical Abstract for My Hometown of Spokane, Washington" is a parody of poker-faced government reports, revealing the private frustration of a man living near a battered-women's shelter. Drug addicts and hard-luck cases abound here, but these stories aren't melodramatic or even dour. Walter's prose is straightforward and funny, and like Richard Russo, he knows his protagonists are concerned with their immediate predicaments, not the socioeconomic mechanisms that put them there. "Wheelbarrow Kings," for instance, follows two meth addicts trying to pawn a projection TV, and the story's power comes from Walter's deft tracking of their minute-by-minute, dollar-by-dollar concerns and their clumsy but canny attempts to resolve them. Still, Walter can't resist a zombie story--the quintessential genre for socioeconomic allegories--and in "Don't Eat Cat," he's written a stellar one. Set in a near future in which a powerful club drug has bred rage-prone, feline-craving addicts, the story deftly blends romance, comic riffs on politically correct culture and dystopian horror. Women are largely absent except as lost objects of affection, but the men are not simply of a type: The small-time scam artist in "Helpless Little Things" bears little resemblance to the convicted white-collar criminal in "The Wolf and the Wild," though they both reflect Walter's concerns about capitalism gone bad. A witty and sobering snapshot of recession-era America.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061926624
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/12/2013
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 177
  • Sales rank: 229,720
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 5.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Jess Walter

Jess Walter is the author of six novels, including the bestsellers Beautiful Ruins and The Financial Lives of the Poets, the National Book Award finalist The Zero, and Citizen Vince, the winner of the Edgar Award for best novel. His short fiction has appeared in Harper's, McSweeney's, and Playboy, as well as The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He lives in his hometown of Spokane, Washington.

Biography

Jess Walter is the author of four novels -- The Zero, a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award, Citizen Vince, winner of the 2005 Edgar Award for best novel, Land of the Blind and Over Tumbled Graves, a 2001 New York Times notable book -- as well as the nonfiction book Every Knee Shall Bow(rereleased as Ruby Ridge), a finalist for the PEN Center West literary nonfiction award in 1996.

A career journalist, Walter also writes short stories, essays and screenplays. He was the co-author of Christopher Darden's 1996 bestseller In Contempt. His work has appeared in Details, Playboy, Newsweek, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe.

His books have been published in sixteen countries and fourteen languages. He lives with his wife Anne and children, Brooklyn, Ava and Alec in Spokane, Washington.

Biography courtesy of the author's official web site.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Walter:

"I am one of the organizers of the largest outdoor basketball tournament in the world."

"I have been in one (1) independent movie for which I grew one (1) righteous mustache."

"I come from a family of failed cattle ranchers."

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    1. Hometown:
      Spokane, Washington
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 20, 1965
    2. Place of Birth:
      Spokane, Washington
    1. Education:
      B.A., Eastern Washington University, 1987
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

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(8)

4 Star

(2)

3 Star

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2 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 16, 2013

    Entertaining group of short stories. I am usually not a fan of t

    Entertaining group of short stories. I am usually not a fan of the short story but these were easy to read, the characters developed enough that you could feel yourself stepping in to each story.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted June 6, 2013

    Entertaining Shorts!

    I rarely find a collection of short stories that keep me interested. Pretty much all of the stories in this book worked for me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted November 5, 2013

    Sandfur

    Id..like one" she said looking shy.

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

    Posted October 25, 2013

    K

    Kaitlynn walked in and sat down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2013

    FUCK U

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2013

    Outside

    A huge thing of grasser with a socver feild and tennis

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2013

    "Emberheart!"

    "I've found you, Emberheart!", meows Daisypelt, "Lightpaw, Shandowpaw and Woodkit are worried about you. She takes Emberheart to water result 4.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted October 31, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2014

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