"Cinematic" is one way to describe Jim Shepard's collection You Think That's Bad
(Knopf). Each story takes you to a different place and time; from a British cartographer's circa 1930 exploration of the Arabian desert to a futuristic take on global warming, these exterior worlds are as fantastically fashioned as the characters themselves. In "Netherlands Lives with Water" (included in Best American Short Stories 2010
), right before the sea swallows Rotterdam, a husband thinks about his wife: "We told each other I think I know
when we should've said Lead me farther through your amazing, astonishing interior."
Shepard's cataclysmic renderings are both terrifying and awe- inspiring. There's a word for that, too—sublime.
— Kristy Davis