‘I’ve felt remorse for all of those children,’ I told him.
‘You wrote that [Lord de Rais] had this or that person’s throat cut,’ he answered. ‘But you neglected to indicate who sometimes did the cutting.’
2. Tell me a story: For years Michael Chabon has pleaded with writers and readers to rediscover the deep literary joy of gripping narrative, and to break with the contemporary obsession with the ‘quotidian, plotless, moment-of-truth revelatory story’. Shepard opens the batting for Chabon in McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, with a story about an Antarctic search for the Megalodon.
‘He was in a region of astounding stories. And he had always lived for astounding stories.’
3. I have failed you: Shepard is the master at making a sense of failure the centre of a story—especially failure at being a reliable husband or good brother. My favourite moment from an earlier collection:
I’ve been a problem baby, a lousy son, a distant brother, an off-putting neighbour, a piss-poor student, a worrisome seatmate, an unreliable employee, a bewildering lover, a frustrating confidant, and a crappy husband. Among the things I do pretty well at this point I’d have to list darts, reclosing Stay-Fresh boxes, and staying out of the way.