Encontre seu próximo livro favorito

Torne'se membro hoje e leia gratuitamente por 30 dias.
We Live in Water: Stories

We Live in Water: Stories

Ler amostra

We Live in Water: Stories

4/5 (19 avaliações)
182 página
3 horas
Lançado em:
Feb 12, 2013

Nota do editor

Grit & humanism…

With his trademark balance of grit & deep humanism, bestselling author Jess Walter’s first collection of short fiction takes you on a panoramic tour of his native Pacific Northwest.



From the New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Ruins, the first collection of short fiction from Jess Walter—a suite of diverse and searching stories about personal struggle and diminished dreams, all of them marked by the wry wit, keen eye, and generosity of spirit that has made him a bookseller and reader favorite

These twelve stories—published over the last five years in Harper’s, The Best American Short Stories, McSweeney’s, Playboy, and other publications—veer from comic tales of love to social satire to suspenseful crime fiction, from hip Portland to once-hip Seattle to never-hip Spokane, from a condemned casino in Las Vegas to a bottomless lake in the dark woods of Idaho. This is a world of lost fathers and redemptive conmen, of meth tweakers on desperate odysseys and men committing suicide by fishing.

We Live in Water is a darkly comic, heartfelt collection of stories from a “ridiculously talented writer” (New York Times), “one of the freshest voices in American literature” (Dallas Morning News).

Lançado em:
Feb 12, 2013

Sobre o autor

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.

Relacionado a We Live in Water

Livros relacionados
Artigos relacionados

Amostra do Livro

We Live in Water - Jess Walter


Anything Helps

BIT HATES going to cardboard.

But he got tossed from the Jesus beds for drunk and sacrilege, and he’s got no other way to get money. So he’s up behind Frankie Doodle’s, flipping through broken-down produce boxes like an art buyer over a rack of paintings, and when he finds a piece without stains or writing he rips it down until it’s square. Then he walks to the Quik Stop, where the fat checker likes him. He flirts her out of a Magic Marker and a beefstick.

The beefstick he eats right away and cramps his gut. He sets the cardboard on the counter and writes carefully in block letters: ANYTHING HELPS. The checker says, You got good handwriting, Bit.

The best spot, where the freeway lets off next to Dicks, is taken by some chalker Bit’s never seen before: skinny, dirty pants, hollow eyes. The kid’s sign reads HOMELESS HUNGRY. Bit yells, Homeless Hungry? Dude, I invented Homeless Hungry. The kid just waves.

Bit walks on, west toward his other spot. There are a few others out, stupid crankers—faces stupid, signs stupid: some forty-year-old baker with VIETNAM VET, too dumb to know he wasn’t born yet, and a coke ghost with tiny writing—Can You Help me feed My Children please. They’re at stupid intersections, too, with synced lights so the cars never stop.

Bit’s headed to his unsynced corner—fewer cars, but at least they have to stop. Streamers off the freeway, working people, South Hill kids, ladies on their way to lunch. When he gets there he grabs the light pole and sits back against it, eyes down—nonthreatening, pathetic. It feels weird; more than a year since he’s had to do this. You think you’re through with some things.

He hears a window hum and gets up, walks to the car without making eye contact. Gets a buck. Thank you. Minute later, another car, another window, another buck. Bless you.

Good luck, the people always say.

For the next hour, it’s a tough go. Cars come off the hill, hit the light, stop, look, leave. A woman who looks at first like Julie glances over and mouths, I’m sorry. Bit mouths back: Me too. Most people stare straight ahead, avoid eye contact.

After a while a black car stops, and Bit stands. But when the windows come down it’s just some boys in ball caps. Worst kind of people are boys in ball caps. Bit should just be quiet, but—

You stinking fucking drunk.

Yeah, I get that sometimes.

Why don’t you get a job?

Good advice. Thanks.

A couple of nickels fly out the window and skitter against the curb; the boys yell some more. Bit waits until they drive away to get the nickels, carefully. He’s heard of kids heating coins with their cigarette lighters. But the nickels are cool to the touch. Bit sits against his pole. A slick creeps down his back.

Then a guy in a gold convertible Mercedes almost makes the light but has to slam on his brakes.

I think you could’ve made it, Bit says.

The guy looks him over. Says, You look healthy enough to work.

Thanks. So do you.

Let me guess—veteran?

Yep. War of 1812.

The guy laughs. Then what, you lost your house?

Misplaced it.

You’re a funny fucker. Hey, tell you what. I’ll give you twenty bucks if you tell me what you’re gonna buy with it.

The light changes but the guy just sits there. A car goes around. Bit shields his eyes from the sun.

You give me twenty bucks?

Yeah, but you can’t bullshit me. If I give you a twenty, honestly, what are you gonna get?

The new Harry Potter book.

You are one funny fucker.

Thanks. You too.

No. Tell me exactly what you’re going to drink or smoke or whatever, and I’ll give you twenty. But it’s gotta be the truth.

The truth. Why does everyone always want that? He looks at the guy in his gold convertible. Back at the Jesus Beds they’ll be gathering for group about now, trying to talk one another out of this very thing, this reverie, truth.

Vodka, Bit says, because it fucks you up fastest. I’ll get it at the store over on Second, whatever cheap stuff they got, plastic in case I drop it. And I’ll get a bag of nuts or pretzels. Something solid to shit later. Whatever money’s left—Bit’s mouth is dry—I’ll put in municipal bonds.

After the guy drives off, Bit looks down at the twenty-dollar bill in his hand. Maybe he is a Funny Fucker.

BIT SLIDES the book forward. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. What’s a hallow, anyway? he asks.

The clerk takes the book and runs it through the scanner. I guess it’s British for hollow. I don’t read those books.

I read the first one. It was pretty good. Bit looks around Auntie’s Bookstore: big and open, a few soft chairs between the rows of books. So what do you read?

Palahniuk. That’ll be twenty-eight fifty-six.

Bit whistles. Counts out the money and sets it on the counter. Shit, he thinks, seventy cents short.

The clerk has those big loopy earrings that stretch out your lobes. He moves his mouth as he counts the money.

How big are you gonna make those holes in your ears?

Maybe like quarter-size. Hey, you’re a little short. You got a discount card?

Bit pats himself down. Hmm. In my other pants.

Be right back, the kid says, and leaves with the book.

I’m kind of in a hurry, Bit says to the kid’s back.

He needs to stop by the Jesus Beds, although he knows Cater might not let him in. He likes Cater, in spite of the guy’s mean-Jesus rules and intense, mean-Jesus eyes. It’s a shame what happened, because Bit had been doing so good, going to group almost every day, working dinner shifts and in the yard. Cater has this pay system at the Jesus Beds, where you serve or clean or do yard work and get paid in these vouchers that you redeem for snacks and shit at the little store they run. Keeps everything kind of in-house and gets people used to spending their money on something other than getting fucked up. Of course, there’s a side market in the vouchers, dime on the dollar, so over time people save enough to get stewed, but Bit’s been keeping that under control, too, almost like a civilian. No crank for more than a year, just a beer or two once a month, occasionally a split bottle of wine.

Then last weekend happened. At group on Thursday, Fat Danny had been bragging again about the time he OD’d, and that made Bit think of Julie, the way her foot kept twitching after she stopped breathing, so after group he took a couple of bucks from his stash—the hollow rail of his bed—and had a beer. In a tavern. Like a real person, leaned up against the bar watching baseball. And it was great. Hell, he didn’t even drink all of it; it was more about the bar than the beer.

But it tasted so good he broke down on Friday and got two forties at the Quik Stop. And when he came back to the Jesus Beds, Wallace ran off to Cater and told him Bit sold his vouchers for booze money.

Consequences, Cater is always saying.

I feel shitty, Bit’s always saying.

Let’s talk about you, Andrea the social worker is always saying.

When you sober up come see me, the fat checker at the Quik Stop is always saying.

Funny fucker, the guy in the gold convertible is always saying.

The bookstore kid finally comes back. He’s got a little card, like a driver’s license, and he gives it to Bit with a pen. There, now you have a discount card, the kid says. On the little piece of cardboard, where it says NAME, Bit writes, Funny Fucker. Where it says ADDRESS, Bit writes: Anything Helps.

BIT STARTS walking again, downtown along the river. For a while, he and Julie camped farther down the bank, where the water turns and flattens out. They’d smoke and she’d lie back and mumble about getting their shit together.

Bit tried to tell Cater that. Yes, he’d fucked up, but he’d actually been selling his vouchers to buy this book, to get his shit together. But Cater was suspicious, asked a bunch of questions, and then Wallace piped in with He’s lying and Bit lunged at Wallace and Cater pulled him off—rough about it, too—Bit yelling Goddamn this and Goddamn that, making it three-for-three (1. No drinking, 2. No fighting, 3. No taking the Lord’s etc.), so that Cater had no choice, he said, rules being rules.

Then I got no choice either, Bit said, pacing outside the Jesus Beds, pissed off.

Sure you do, Cater said. You always have a choice.

Of course, Cater was right. But out of spite or self-pity, or just thirst, Bit went and blew half his book money on a fifth, spent a couple of nights on the street and then shot the rest of his money on another. You think you’re through with some things, picking smokes off the street, shitting in alleys. He woke this morning in a parking lot above the river, behind a humming heat pump. Looked down at the river and could practically see Julie lying back in the grass. When we gonna get our shit together, Wayne?

Bit walks past brick apartments and empty warehouses. Spokane’s a donut city, downtown a hole, civilians all in the suburbs. Donut City is part of Bit’s unifying urban theory, like the part about how every failing downtown tries the same stupid fixes: hang a vertical sign on an empty warehouse announcing Luxury Lofts!, buy buses that look like trolley cars, open a shitty farmers’ market.

Very interesting, Andrea says whenever Bit talks about his theory. But we talk about ourselves at group, Bit. Let’s talk about you.

But what if this is me? Bit asked once. Why can’t we be the things that we see and think? Why do we always have to be these sad stories, like Fat Danny pretending he’s sorry he screwed up his life when we all know he’s really just bragging about how much coke he used to do? Why can’t we talk about what we think instead of just all the stupid shit we’ve done?

Okay, Wayne, she said—what do you think?

I think I’ve done some real stupid shit.

Andrea likes him, always laughs at his jokes, treats him smarter than the group, which he is. She even flirts with him, a little.

Where’s your nickname come from? she asked him one time.

It’s because that’s all a woman can take of my wand, he said. Just a bit. Plus I chewed a man to death once. Bit right through his larynx.

It’s his last name is all, said Wallace. Bittinger.

That’s true, he said. Although I did bite a guy’s larynx once.

You think you’re so smart, Wallace is always saying.

And do you want to talk about Julie? Andrea is always saying.

Not so much, Bit’s always saying.

We’re all children before God, Cater is always saying.

But Cater isn’t even at the Jesus Beds when Bit stops there. He’s at his kid’s soccer game. Kenny the Intake Guy leans out the window and says he can’t let Bit in the door till he clears it with Cater.

Sure, Bit says, just do me a favor. He takes the book from the bag. Tell him I showed you this.

BIT WALKS past brick storefronts and apartments, through nicer neighborhoods with green lawns. The book’s heavy under his arm.

Another part of Bit’s unifying urban theory is sprinklers, that you can gauge a neighborhood’s wealth by the way people water. If every single house has an automatic system, you’re looking at a six-figure mean. If the majority lug hoses around, it’s more lower-middle class. And if they don’t bother with the lawns . . . well, that’s the sort of shitburg where Bit and Julie always lived, except for that little place they rented in Wenatchee the summer Bit worked at the orchard. He sometimes thinks back to that place and imagines what it would be like if he could undo everything that came after that point, like standing up a line of dominos. All the way back to Nate.

Bit breathes deeply, looks around at the houses to get his mind off it, at the sidewalks and the garden bricks and the homemade mailboxes. It isn’t a bad walk. The Molsons live in a neighborhood between arterials, maybe ten square blocks of ’50s and ’60s ranchers and ramblers, decent-sized edged yards, clean, the sort of block Julie always liked—nice but not overreaching. Bit pulls out the postcard, reads the address again even though he remembers the place from last time. Two more blocks.

It’s getting cool, heavy clouds settling down like a blanket over a kid. It’ll rain later. Bit puts this neighborhood at about 40 percent sprinkler systems, 25 percent two-car garages, lots of rock gardens and lined sidewalks. The Molsons have the biggest house on the block, gray, two-story with a big addition on back. Two little boys—one black, one white, both littler than Nate—are in the front yard, behind a big cyclone fence, bent over something. A bug, if Bit had to bet.

Hullo, Bit says from his side of the fence. You young gentlemen know if Nate’s around?

He’s downstairs playing Ping-Pong, says one of the boys. The other grabs his arm, no doubt heeding a warning about stranger-talk.

Maybe you could tell Mr. or Mrs. Molson that Wayne Bittinger’s outside. Here to see Nate for one half-a-second is all.

The boys are gone a while. Bit clears his throat. Shifts his weight.

Você chegou ao final desta amostra. Inscreva-se para ler mais!
Página 1 de 1


O que as pessoas pensam sobre We Live in Water

19 avaliações / 23 Análises
O que você acha?
Classificação: 0 de 5 estrelas

Avaliações de leitores

  • (5/5)
    I read Beautiful Ruins earlier this year and liked it quite a lot, but after reading this collection, I've decided that short stories are Jess Walter's strength. I find that it is easy to put a short story collection down because there is no plot running throughout to pull me back in. But this collection kept pulling me back with its themes of hard luck and struggle, its gritty and complex characters, and its superb writing. The first story in the collection is my favorite. "Anything Helps" is about a homeless man and his dissolving relationship with his son, who is in foster care. The story begins, "Bit hates going to cardboard." With this sentence, I knew that Walter hadn't just done some research so that he could describe the life of a homeless man. Instead, he takes us inside the head and the heart of a homeless man. Bit isn't like most of the people who use cardboard signs to try to raise money. He has good handwriting, a strategy for the message he writes, and an unusual reason for needing the money. He is insightful and observant, and in a few short pages, I was rooting for him hard. But the characters in Walter's stories need more than me rooting for them. Walter doesn't allow me to escape back into my comfortable life by throwing his characters a lifeline. Instead, he leaves them where they are and leaves a little piece of me there too. Not every story in the book hit me as hard as "Anything Helps," but there are several gems in this collection. It is worth reading for the first lines alone. Each word in a short story has to count, and Walter wastes no time pulling us into the story:"I'm on my way to Vegas with my friend Bobby Rausch to rescue his stepsister from a life of prostitution." "The fanned out in the brown grass along Highway 2 like geese in a loose V, eight men in white coveralls and orange vests picking up trash." "Tommy got his kid Saturday, first time in three weeks." "I'm hungry as fuck."These weren't always easy stories to read, but they are powerful and well-written. They tell the stories that aren't often told, and they do it in a way that leaves an indelible image.
  • (4/5)
    This is a very interesting short story collection that forces the reader to look directly into the eye of poverty, drug addiction and some of the lesser-written about fringes of society (like scammers, petty criminals and the children of the men to live those lives). These are very gritty stories and not for those easily offended by profanity, domestic abuse and drugs. That said, I found them important in their way, and Walter's writing is almost bizarrely readable and hypnotic. He mixes humor at the human condition in with some startling moments of cruelty done to each other. All in all, a strong collection, varied in length and scope, and I flew through them. I also have to say, "Don't Eat Cat" was the very first sci-fi short story I read that I actually liked! Although you will learn more about Spokane than you may want to, I highly recommend these stories for something a bit off the beaten path.
  • (5/5)
    If you asked me to name my top three male, contemporary authors Jess Walter would top the list. We Live in Water is the third book written by Walter that I have read and, frankly, his previous novel, Beautiful Ruins, is the one that won me over. But We Live in Water shows just how masterful Walter's writing is and how adept he is at taking one single, pivotal moment and magnifying it in such great detail that it is impossible to not get the message he is trying to get across.In this series of short stories Walter examines the lives of people from the future and the past; he examines those without homes and those who want to escape their homes. Young and old are subject to the scrutiny and the only thing each of these stories has in common is that, much like a fish in a fish tank, it's placed before our wondering eyes and we pause for just a touch of time to watch the subjects swim in their lives before moving on to the next thing.My love for short stories is a fairly recent thing. I never could understand the fascination with reading a short story - having always loved my stories to be fully developed with world and characters. I thought that in order for my emotions to get wrapped up in a characters life it would require at least 300 pages of solid reading about that character. Oh, if only I'd been handed something like this book sooner. Some of these short stories are a mere two pages long, yet they pack the same punch (or more so) than books that are 300+ pages long.If you haven't experienced Jess Walter and want a sample of what this man is capable of then go to a bookstore and read just one of these short stories. I guarantee you will find yourself not only buying the book but looking at his previous work, just as I have done. In fact, I think I'm going to be reading Beautiful Ruins again very soon.
  • (4/5)
    I loved this grouping of short stories. Not really sure why, his prose is not beautiful but rather plain, but boy can he put stories together. Absolutely loved that he took people that we tend to overlook and often condemn, the addicts, the prostitutes, the thieves, many of life's dispossessed people and he gave them a human face. Found a tiny chink of goodness that makes one want to take another look and keep reading to find out where he is going next. My two favorites were actually the first two stories but I also enjoyed his view of post apocalyptic fiction, which was actually a longer story. Will definitely read more from this author.
  • (3/5)
    These stories are all about men who are fringe or broken: criminals, con men, highly questionable husbands and fathers. And they aren't getting any better. But Walter can create a multi layered character in just a few pages that you will not easily forget. I've got two favorites. The first one is based in the near future and a zombie workforce--"Don't Eat Cat". On the surface, it's hilarious. But it has darker shadows of intolerance and prejudice when you actually stop to think about it. My other favorite was more autobiographical for Walters, "Statistical Abstract For My Home Town, Spokane, Washington". He begins with basic facts, and then goes on to tell what I have assumed are true experiences regarding these statistics. He tells a story about a woman's safe house that was down the block that made me fall for him in a very hard way. I already liked the guy, but now I truly admire him.
  • (5/5)
    Five stars. With a bullet. And a syringe. And some helpless, hopeless wailing.

    I met Walter at ALA and he signed his book for me. To tell the stark truth, I was wandering around, saw him signing books in the Harper Collins booth and thought, "Hey, that's a short line...", and even though I'd never heard of him, I bellied up to the free book bar. By such small cusps one's life may change.

    As Donne said, comparisons are odious. But there was a name that kept ringing in my head as I read these stories. Walter puts me in mind of Raymond Carver in all the ways that matter. His people are my people, the ones I grew up with, the ones I ran away from, the ones I turned into. There are no winners here, no rescuers, no happy endings. There's only today, and tomorrow, which will be like today only maybe worse. The same, if you're lucky. A lot worse, more likely.

    There's humor here, smoky and reeling, but still funny as hell. I can't recommend these stories highly enough. I want to read every word this man has ever written, but I can't do it all at once because I'm pretty sure if I did I'd crawl in my coat closet and huddle there till I died.

  • (5/5)
    Short stories set in the Pacific Northwest. There are tough/not-so-tough guys, cons, ex-cons, future cons,dealers, hustlers--a range of "fringe people." There is also a gentleness in these people, especially in their dealings with children. Library book.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (3/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    We Live in Water By Jess Walter2013, Harper CollinsReview by Debra L Scott, 3/18/2013Short Story collections can go good or bad. Jess Walter has put together a collection that is all good. Not that the stories are feel-good, or comfortable, or even have happy endings. They are well-written good. The subject matter may be disturbing for yuppie, ivory tower types but will ring true for those who call the streets home or walk the streets as a profession. it's about human choices; choices that needed to be made that might seem wrong to most, or those who simply did what they must because life didn't give them any other choice. There are also those who try new choices, and those who no longer choose. It's about expectations, and why the phrase 'did not meet expectations' sits on a midline, with reality falling both below and above the line.The book cover for We Live In Water, is of a flooded town with a school bus submerged to the top of its windows. One might expect, as I did, stories about the Katrina disaster or even Hurricane Sandy. It's not. It is about the substrata of American life that most of us prefer to thrust back into the deep nether regions of our consciousness. "Oh I get it,” you say, "so it's going to be about the poor downtrodden sop in the gutter and how miserable his life is?" Wrong again. Walter writes the story between the lines, the one you don't see as you dole out a buck to a panhandler or wrinkle your nose at the compulsive gambler. Do you think those needle marks on the junkie's arm will never be yours, or picture a work-release prisoner in a road crew picking up trash? Jess Walter's stories are the ones these unfortunates tell each other, the only people that will comprehend why life went that way. About the cover art, there is some water involved somewhere, but it's not what you think.
  • (4/5)
    This is one of the best short story collections I've read in a long time. Usually when I read short story collections, the stories tend to have a similar tone, but Walter has the ability to deftly handle a variety of different kinds of stories, all with great skill. There were a few that did not resonate with me, but the stories that did made such an impact that this is among one of my best reads of 2013 so far. I liked it so much that upon completing the book, I promptly purchased his novel, "Beautiful Ruins," a book which previously had not piqued my interest. My personal favorites from this collection are "We Live in Water," "Virgo," and "Don't Eat Cat." I also really enjoyed his last piece about his hometown Spokane, though I don't recall the title. It's been years since I've been to Spokane, but in this interesting piece, he does a great job of capturing it's essence.
  • (5/5)
    Reassessing the short-formIt wasn’t that long ago that any publisher would have told you that “story collections don’t sell.” These days, however, they’re all the rage. If asked, I would proclaim, “I’m not into short-form.” And yet, I’ve read three excellent collections within the past month. I am being forced to reassess my attitudes because there is a lot of exciting short fiction being produced these days!Jess Walter’s debut collection, We Live in Water, is literally overflowing with story. The first several tales in the collection deal with parent/child relationships. Do I detect a motif? But then there were tales of male/female relationships, and then tales of crime and punishment. Eventually some themes did emerge, and if there is one commonality to be found throughout these stories, I believe it to be the question of honor. Walter explores this concept from a variety of angles and approaches.Most of the tales within this collection are fairly realistic. The one exception is “Don’t Eat Cat.” I’m trying to think of how to describe it. It’s speculative and satirical, moving and poignant, all at once. It was one of my favorite stories in the collection, but as I made my way through the baker’s dozen tales, I proclaimed several to be my favorite for a time. The first was the title story, “We Live in Water.” The reader comprehends the significance of the title at the same time as the central character does. It’s a beautiful revelation.A few of these stories seem to reside in the same Walterverse. The characters and settings of “Can of Corn” overlap with those of “The Brakes.” Less obviously, is the Mr. McAdam referenced in “Thief” (another favorite) he same Mr. McAdam who shows up later in “The Wolf and the Wild”? I guess it’s not surprising there would be some overlap. Most of these tales stick pretty close to Walter’s home territory of Spokane, Washington. His characters have challenges and fallibilities. They are flawed and funny at once. They are at all times believable.I believe different story writers have different strengths. Some you read for their beautiful language. Others offer extraordinary insight into character. Mr. Walter is fine on both counts, but that’s not where he really shines. The greatest satisfaction of this collection is the completeness of the stories that he is telling. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They were unusually well-structured and well-plotted, regardless of length. They did not leaving me hungering for the rest of the tale. Simply put, Mr. Walter knows how to tell one hell of a good yarn.
  • (5/5)
    Walter's short stories are brilliantly written pieces about men living on the gritty edge of humanity. Humor is balanced with pathos and despair producing a very successful and readable collection. His subject matter is disturbing, but the writing compels the reader to move forward without pause to the end.
  • (5/5)
    I’ve read two of Walter’s novels – The Financial Lives of Poets and Beautiful Ruins – and thoroughly enjoyed both. I know he gets lots of credit because his body of work covers multiple genres, and this collection offers more proof of his rather amazing versatility. There are of a lot of stories here about druggies and criminals and people who’ve lived on the edges of criminal lives, but none of the pieces read like true-crime or hard-boiled genre stories. They all offer great insights into the mindsets of people leading these seedy or down and out lives. You’ll be surprised just how sympathetic you’ll feel for a homeless man who can’t get his act together enough to raise his son or a crystal meth addict who cluelessly tries to transport an antiquated TV to a pawn shop. This collection simply offers more proof to readers that as long as Walter’s name is on the book jacket, regardless of the genre or form he’s writing in, he’ll deliver the goods and make the time you invest with him well worth your while.

    The 13 stories, mostly set on the West Coast, and Northwest in particular, are:

    1.Anything Helps – 16 pp – A great portrait of a homeless man who lost his wife and son and is trying, not very successfully, to get his act back together to get his son back. Some great funny and poignant scenes about the lies he has to tell the victims of his panhandling efforts in order to fulfill their stereotypes of him, and the exchange that takes place between his son’s Christian foster mother who objects to the Harry Potter book he wants to give his son.

    2.We Live in Water – 24 pp – In late 1950s Ohio, a man gets in trouble with a bookie/pimp because he slept with the man’s wife and stole a little money from his safe. The story is split between the time the man crosses the powerful criminal, and has to give up his son, and a period 34 years later, when the son revisits the town and tries to learn what happened to his father.

    3.Thief – 12 pp – A great portrait of a singular obsession. A father suspects one of his three children is stealing from the jar of coins he keeps in his bedroom closet to save for a family vacation.

    4.Can a Corn – 3 pp – An old man I a prison with furloughs for dialysis treatment would rather spend his time going fishing, regardless of the health consequences.

    5.Virgo – 11 pp - - A newspaper editor gets his revenge against an ex-girlfriend when she leaves him for an old boyfriend by changing her daily horoscope, and then his obsession with her takes an even more sinister turn.

    6.Helpless Little Things – 14 pp – The title has an ironic meaning as a con man who uses homeless teenagers to do fake charity fund-raising on street corners meets his match from an unlikely source.

    7.Please – 2 pp – Another short-short about a divorced father who worries about leaving his son with his druggie ex-wife and her boyfriend.

    8.Don’t Eat Cat – 21 pp – In a futuristic world, a man discovers he has cancer but can't get government approval to treat it, so he goes looking for the great love of his life, an ex-girlfriend who became addicted to a drug that turned her into a zombie.

    9.The New Frontier – 19 pp – A man heads with an old high buddy to Las Vegas to find the friend’s sister, who they suspect has turned to a life of prostitution. The city of sin has more than a few surprises in store for them.

    10.The Brakes – 5 pp – A father takes his son to the garage where he works and tries to protect a racist, senile woman from getting conned by the other mechanics at the garage.

    11.The Wolf and The Wild – 14 pp – A convicted embezzler, who still has millions in the bank, does community outreach by reading to kids at an inner-city school. He discovers, much to his disappointment, that his efforts have little impact.

    12.Wheelbarrow Kings – 15 pp – Very funny story about two bumbling crystal meth addicts who have a day of adventure before their score, as they try to move an old TV someone gives them to a pawn shop.

    13.Statistical Abstract for My Hometown of Spokane, Washington – 15 pp – Not sure if this a story or an actual essay about why Walter still lives in his downtrodden and crime-ridden hometown or Spokane, filled with sad but funny points of trivia about the city.
  • (3/5)
    Jess Walter’s novels are liberally sprinkled with wit and daring (who else would write a novel titled, The Financial Lives of the Poets), a recognition that a life – any life – is filled with drama and pathos (and opportunities for wit), and a curious affection for the underside of Washington State. So it is no surprise to find that his short stories in this, his first collection, mirror the preoccupations of his novels. The only question is whether he succeeds as well in the short form as his does when he can be expansive.The answer is that, for the most part, he does succeed. A few stories here are excellent: the brilliantly funny and poignant, “Anything Helps”; the gritty tale of sacrifice in the title story, “We Live in Water”; the toughly observed, “Wheelbarrow Kings”. Each of these stories is narrowly focused, concentrated, if you will, and I think that is when Walter’s natural zesty exuberance works best. (The same might also be said of his novels.) Some of these stories feel a bit borrowed. “Don’t Eat Cat” – a zombie tale of loss and regret – and “Virgo” – a study in obsession (but also funny) – might cause you to think of George Saunders. In others I thought I saw the influence of Richard Ford (can anyone make use of Deer Lodge prison in Montana without raising the “Ford” flag?) and Lorrie Moore . That’s no bad thing, of course. But it suggests that Walter is still (at least in some of these stories) reaching for his own unique voice. The excellent stories mentioned above and the overall quality of the writing give reason for hope that, if Walter continues to follow the rigours of the short form, he will more consistently hit all of the right notes. But I hope he doesn’t stop writing novels. Gently recommended.
  • (5/5)
    Witty and deep...the title story is especially good.
  • (5/5)
    Giving this five stars - such great writing and stories but also SO depressing. Sometimes I thrive on this kind of darkness but I need something much lighter now.
  • (3/5)
    A collection of short stories. Some were good. Most were average. None will stick with me.
  • (4/5)
    from the new book box; a set of stories set in author's town of Spokane, current day. I can't tell how much is fact vs fiction. My favorite was "Going to Cardboard", about the way a homeless man pan-handles. I never thought about the homeless figuring out the different angles to get money. Most of the tales were uncomfortable to read, but very well written
  • (5/5)
    I just finished my 3rd Jess Walter book in a row. This collection short stories was short and excellent. It surrounds down and out men and how they deal with life. It is not a happy collection but it is also short so it should not overly depress you. A great portrayal of people living on the downside of life. Very creative stories and a good introduction to Jess Walter. The finally story was a statistical abstract of my hometown, which is Spokane and was terrific. This book will make you look at your own life and be grateful for the good parts.
  • (3/5)
    An uneven collection that improves as you move forward. The first few stories are very gimmicky, and I hate cute. The first story is particularly clumsy. But there is some really great writing as you move in, some downright affecting. Worth a look, but nonessential.
  • (5/5)
    great stories. Must reads