[Reading Room] The Zero Meter Diving Team by Jim Shepard


Jim Shepard turned up in my RSS feeds this week because blog were reporting on Joshua Ferris hailing him as the Best Writing Teacher Ev-ah.

The name rang a bell in the back of my head and I strongly suspected he was the author of a story I’d heard on Selected Shorts. A story I had been really impressed by. Sure enough it was I’d also heard the author interviewed and been impressed by him. (I thought of trying to get him to come and do an interview here. Now I know he’s a Big Deal, but I’ll still try).

Anyhoo, I bought a collection of his stories, Like You’d Understand, Anyway.

This first story in the collection is an absolutely haunting account of the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown. Told from the perspective of a bureaucrat, it gives insights into the workings of a Soviet family and the Soviet governmental style, all while taking an unflinching look at what exposure to that kind of radiation does to a body.

And yet, there is a lightness and humanity in the story that is really hard to explain.

All I know is that I couldn’t get this story out of my head for days.

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