Jim Shepard: I know Myself Real Well. That’s the Problem. (January 2000)
In the epiphanic short story, Jim Shepard suggests, we tend to assume that a moment of self-knowledge implies change; once we know the destructive things we do we won’t do them anymore. Of course, as Shepard points out, this is far from true. How, then, can writers create realistic characters “who are intricately self-aware and yet still geniuses of self-destruction”? And how can this kind of failure sustain a short story? Shepard looks at “The Dead” by James Joyce and “Helping” by Robert Stone for examples.