Love and Hydrogen
Jim Shepard
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Buy *Love and Hydrogen: New and Selected Stories* online

Love and Hydrogen: New and Selected Stories

Jim Shepard
Vintage
Paperback
352 pages
January 2004
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars
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This collection of short stories has no central themes, no reifying elements, nothing to hook the pieces together save the percipient and sophist-like reasoning of the author. The title instructs us we're going to delve into the phobias and fabulousness of the amore, but it doesn't tell us that we're going to uncover it on exploding airships, beneathy the swampy lagoons and the legendary creature who dwells there, several thousand feet below the ocean's surface, and within a famous rock band.

Shepard is poignant and precise in his calculations, passionate and puissant in his delivery. He is edgy and laugh-out-loud humorous in his observations of the world around him and even more spectacularly insightful about the worlds he imagines.

In "Won't Get Fooled Again," he sets his sights on The Who, the famous English rock quartet that made history when guitarist/main songwriter Pete Townshend wrote the sad musical fable called Tommy. The opening line, "We were the great group for things going wrong. Cancellations, electrical failures, bad weather, broken-down vans, missed dates, slashed thumbs, broken noses, sprained knees, bugger-all equipment, beggary, rookery, penury, and out-and-out thuggery: all just a part of the tag-along high-speed death march that called itself The Detours/The High Numbers/The Who." This is The Who; Shepard nailed them. It's doubtful whether he ever actually interviewed the band - everything he talks about is common knowledge, available in any music encyclopedia - but his distillation of the information, the way he bores into the heads of the various members, is chillingly honest and breathlessly perfect.

The truly engaging angle of the story is that it's narrated by bassist John Entwistle (the author spells the surname as Entwhistle and it's curious whether he did this on purpose or just didn't know), the least visible and verbal of the members.

Shepard is a marvel. The final line of the book, closing a tale titled "Climb Aboard The Mighty Flea," reads, "We have become the unbelievable. We are our own descendants, the children we have always wanted to be." You don't even have to know what the story is about - German test pilots - to be moved to tears by it.

His is a colossal talent. Read this book immediately.



Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Steven Rosen, 2005

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