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We Live in Water: Stories by Jess Walter
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We Live in Water: Stories (original 2013; edition 2013)

by Jess Walter

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1551777,049 (3.94)18
Member:JackieBlem
Title:We Live in Water: Stories
Authors:Jess Walter
Info:Harper Perennial (2013), Edition: Original, Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:Your library
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We Live in Water: stories by Jess Walter (2013)

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» See also 18 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Witty and deep...the title story is especially good. ( )
  jimnicol | Sep 26, 2014 |
Three stories in, and already mesmerized: how does he do that? How can he blow so much life into everything he creates, and how can he make me care so much about anything he writes?

Well, I'm done now. What can I say? I love this guy. He's about 50 years old, so I'll have at least another 20-25 of his books to read in the future. And that is a very good thing.

Seriously though, I've asked myself, what makes me prefer Jess Walter over legends like Ian McEwan, Cormac McCarthy, Jonathan Franzen, or other big names in contemporary fiction?

Very simply, I think it's his heart. He's got a lot of it. Too many writers, especially the ones who get the most halleluhias from the critics, are wonderful wordsmiths but they don't have much heart and soul. I understand, it's also personal chemistry. But read "The road" or "Saturday" or "Enduring Love", or the highly acclaimed "Freedom", and you'll know what I'm talking about: I don't care about phenomenal style and structure if your story feels cold, and it has has the heart of an investment banker.

Also, a note about the last story, the one about Spokane, with numbered paragraphs like a list. Did you notice how there is a perfectly balanced narrative arch in that story, too? With the main topic being Walter's relationship with his town? Brilliant.

So, once again: congratulations, Mr Walter. I loved this book, like I loved your other books. Thank you for being out there and please keep doing what you're doing. ( )
  tabascofromgudreads | Apr 19, 2014 |
I read the first story in this collection, "Anything Helps," when it appeared in The Best American Short Stories 2012. I loved the story for its intelligence and for its sensitive and utterly convincing portrayal of a homeless man. In my review of that book I called it "lavishly, gloriously, depressing -- in the best way possible."

So I was looking forward to this collection of Walter's stories, but perhaps I should have also been a little wary. The problem is that ALL of the stories in this book are lavishly, gloriously, depressing, and that can get a bit wearying.

In one of the stories, the protagonist narrates: "It's August 2003: two weeks since I found out I failed the bar exam, six months since I got divorced, a year since I caught my wife with another man, eighteen months since she caught me cheating. I'm on quite a streak." Yeah; for most characters -- real or fictional -- that would be quite a streak. But for a Jess Walter character, that's actually doing pretty well. This story ("The New Frontier") is one of the less grim in the book; many of his characters have far worse circumstances to endure than that "streak."

So (as others have noted) Walter is a terrific writer. He's got skill and grace and sensitivity and inventiveness. He can portray characters whose lives are (hopefully) vastly distant from yours and mine, and make us believe that he's got every tiniest particle of that character utterly and exactly right. But jeeze -- thirteen stories as grim and dreary and depressing as these is a lot to take. I recommend this collection, but I recommend reading it sporadically. Rather than just plowing along from one story to the next, you'd be well-advised to alternate this book with a David Sedaris collection or something of that sort. ( )
  KarlBunker | Mar 30, 2014 |
Great collection of stories focusing on everyday people with genuine, believable problems...quite a bit of a departure from his recent novel, Beautiful Ruins, which I also loved. While the grandiosity of Hollywood and the Italian coast form the setting for that excellent love story, this collection is (mostly) set inside the more down-to-earth Spokane city limits. All of these stories struck an emotional chord with me. I remember reading "Anything Helps" for the first time in McSweeny's, tears running down my face by the last page. I expected a similar catharsis for this collection, and while I didn't have that same powerful reaction to all of these stories (thank goodness, I'd be an emotional wreck), I found myself connecting with most of the characters and readily empathizing with them (well, maybe not quite as much with the meth addicts, but still, they were a sorrowful lot). Excellent read. Highly recommended. ( )
  NordicT | Nov 2, 2013 |
Read most most of the short stories- was good but depressing. May want to get again to finish. ( )
  lynn9876 | Aug 17, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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. For Walter, we do live in water, an immense soup of muddled humanity sloshing around and spilling over, soaking us all. Everything is a reflection of everything else, with no such thing as disconnection. Or isolation. Or edges. Or solid ground.
added by ozzer | editNew York Times, Allison Glock (Feb 8, 2013)
 
Not every writer thinks of his stories as troubled offspring, but in Mr. Walter’s case it’s a fair description. ...Nobody in this collection’s 13 pieces can be described as headed for anything but trouble.
...The short form has allowed Mr. Walter to assemble his most bleakly funny, hard-edge book in years.
added by ozzer | editNew York Yimes, Janet Maslin (Jan 31, 2013)
 
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"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."--from cover, p. [4]… (more)

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