December 11, 2017
Patti's tribute to Sam last Tuesday in celebration of his book release was
written up at this
Vogue link. It's a great overview of the evening by Rebecca Bengal. In
the following, she describes Patti: "Taking a seat on the edge of the
stage as her longtime collaborators Lenny Kaye and Tony Shanahan played a
rendition of the folk ballad 'Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie' —a cowboy lament
for the man with the cowboy mouth—she rocked to its loping rhythm and seemed
briefly overcome. Then she caught herself, flashed a warm smile to Shepard’s
three grown children, Hannah, Jesse, and Walker, seated in the second row." And
later in the evening, Patti tells her audience, " We were friends for more than
half a century." The photo below is one of my favorites:
A few more reviews of "Spy of the First
Person" have surfaced this past week. Sam Sacks of The Wall Street
Journal quotes the old man in the story - "The thing I remember most is being
more or less helpless and the strength of my sons." Sacks writes, "At last he
has no choice but to accept the company of others as he travels through the wide
American somewhere." Yes, the lone cowboy needs someone to scratch his itch or
wipe his ass. Biographer John J. Winters, who wrote "Sam Shepard: A Life",
refers to Sam as the "wounded cowboy" who retires to his Kentucky home to await
his review, Winters writes, "When the doctor tells him there’s a
problem, his response is pure Shepard: 'I know something is wrong. Why do you
think I’m in here? He just looked at me with a blank stare.'" Reading that, I
can feel an icy wind sweeping over my face and it feels prickly...
And Winters goes on to point out an observation that no one
else thus far has mentioned. He writes, "Shepard’s last written reflection is,
appropriately enough, about fatherhood, something he’d dealt with in life, on
pages and stages, for more than a half century. However, notably missing from
'Spy of the First Person' is any mention of his own father."
How true, but what about the glaring absence of a certain
woman who was the love of his life for almost 30 years? She's missing from the
pages of this "fictional memoir" and her presence is missing from his final
weeks on his deathbed, but at least brave Patti Smith/Mighty Mouse arrived to
save the day. As you can witness in the documentary, "Shepard
& Dark", perhaps Sam never had the courage to address those painful
issues that were too close to his heart, not even at the end of his life.
December 6, 2017
Last night Patti Smith performed at a tribute concert
for Sam in celebration of the release of his book. The event took place at St.
Ann & the Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn. During a performance of "Dancing
Barefoot", Patti forgot one of the lyrics and began laughing. "What is it? I've
sung this nine million times," she said. "You know what, Sam really liked when I
did this. He would actually taunt me and be somewhere and get my attention so I
would mess something up. And he had this coyote laugh, I can't explain it. So
I'm sure he's enjoying this right now."
December 5, 2017
Guess how I spent this afternoon? Yes, reading "Spy of the
First Person". We'll call my thoughts "Musings by Coymoon". Let me preface this
by saying except for "The One Inside", I have thoroughly enjoyed the stories of
Sam Shepard, and even more so when they were narrated by him, such as his
audiobook, "Cruising Paradise". In this last volume of his work, I find a man
completely absorbed in the physical deterioration of his body without any
reflection on life and death.
These stories, often fragments, equate to nothing more than
dream sequences that we all experience. As Jocelyn McClurg (USA Today) points
out, "The reader must follow the flow; but, like trying to decipher someone's
dreams, it's not always easy." Shall we call in Dr. Freud? Except for the last
two chapters of this sparse book, there's nothing significant or meaningful and
what you'll find mostly on these pages are the ramblings of any old man obsessed
with the restrictions that his illness has brought upon him. Nothing more.
However, I believe I did recognize his friend Johnny Dark and wife Scarlett [Olan's
Wouldn't "love" be a word that would frame your remembrances
of someone? Wouldn't "death" be a word that could be better defined as you
"stand on the edge of life and see the Darkness"? [The Seventh Seal]
I am a stickler for writing reviews for books, film [Roger Ebert being the
worst!] or theater without giving away the plot or without including way too
many quotes. If you go read through the many reviews, you probably have already
read this book! Truly!
* * * * *
wanted to take this photo
December 4, 2017
Tomorrow "Spy of the First Person"
will be released and I expect my edition to arrive shortly thereafter.
EW web site is featuring actor Michael Shannon reading
an excerpt from the audiobook. Shannon appeared with Sam in "Mud" and
"Midnight Special." In addition, the actor performed in several of Sam's plays.
This year alone, he participated in a June reading of "Curse of the Starving
Class" and acted in a five-week run of "Simpatico" at the McCarter Theatre
Center in Princeton, New Jersey.
When "The One Inside" was published, I indicated my dislike
of its cover with a photograph by Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide. Dark
and depressing. Here again is another of her images called "El señor de los
pájaros en Nayarit (1984). Tibetans believe vultures are angel-like figures that
will take the souls to heaven, but in the bible, when blessings and curses are
given to Israel, God warns them, "Your carcasses shall be food for all the birds
of the air and the beasts of the earth, and no one shall frighten them away".
Under this curse, the gathering of the vultures symbolizes the height of defeat,
disgrace, and personal insignificance, when no defenders are left to keep the
scavengers from tearing a human body apart just as they would a dead animal.
What is Sam trying to say?
In an inversion of a typical dedication page, where the
author often thanks his or her family, "Spy of the First Person" is dedicated to
the author himself: "Sam’s children, Hannah, Walker and Jesse would like to
recognize their father’s life and work and the tremendous effort he made to
complete his final book."
And obviously it was a struggle for our writer to finish his
last work. When using his typewriter became too difficult, he wrote out his
notes with pen, and when that became impossible, he used a tape recorder.
In the end he simply dictated his words to his daughter Hannah or his sisters
Roxanne and Sandy.
Knopf editor LuAnn Walther says, "People think of Sam Shepard
as the solitary cowboy of American myth riding off into the distance, but in
truth, he was dedicated to his family his whole life." I beg to differ. Does
this include his parents? All his children? Have you ever seen a photo of
Sam with his sisters? She continues, "He was adamant that he didn't want the
book to be categorized as a novel even though he was told it could create
marketing problems. He said, 'why does anybody need a label.' You have to
remember that Sam was always adamant through the years that he would never write
a memoir. But what about a memoir of his dying?
Hannah says, "The line between fact and fiction in his own
work was always very ambiguous to Sam, I believe. Many things blended together
for him." Note that she refers to her father by his first name. And again when
she states, "Sam was suspicious of technology, and the failure of these devices
and computer programs just confirmed his lack of faith in them, I think.
Recording was a very different experience for him than the physical act of
writing, and he found it somewhat disorienting, but adjusted."
He made the final edits just a week before his death,
dictating small changes to his daughter as she read the manuscript to him, start
to finish. "Some of the funniest lines in the book, in my opinion, he added in
our last edit," Hannah says. She chooses not to point out which lines. "I would
rather keep this personal, as a memory between me and my father."
In a March 2010 interview with The Guardian, Sam opened
up a bit about his only daughter. He revealed, "I never thought about having
a daughter and then I had a daughter and it was a remarkable thing. It was
very different from having a son and your response to it. With a son, it's
much more complex. And it's probably because of my stuff in the past. With a
daughter, I was surprised at how simple it is." It's to her, he says, that
he intends to leave his notebooks, "because she's the one who's asked for
December 2, 2017
In 1998 PBS' Great Performances presented a television
special by Oren Jacoby called "Stalking Himself". The documentary
emphasized Shepard’s identity as an "odd, contradictory presence on the American
"He’s well-known but unknown, handsome and seductive but willfully remote," Will
Joyer wrote in a New York Times review of the film. "He’s almost too easily the
archetype of the authentic American, at home in the wide open spaces but not
really at home anywhere."
In the documentary, Shepard also said he was uneasy about
being too easily pinned down as a character he’d played on TV.
"I think we’re faced with a dilemma now that’s terrifying. You can just get rid
of you altogether and make you an image," he said. "In fact, we prefer the image
to the human being. We’d rather watch you on television than talk to you."
I think that's a very interesting observation and certainly
applies to him.
After Sam died, filmmaker Oren Jacoby spoke about the difficulty in making this
"It was my first time working with Bob Richman, already
highly regarded as a cinéma vérité cameraman. Still, it was a shock when we
started shooting a rehearsal on our first day and Bob kept filming our main
character (Sam) from behind or the side, always at a distance, and mostly
pointing his lens at the other people in the scene. After a few minutes of this,
I started first to whisper and then physically to try and nudge him around to
the front, so we could at least see both eyes of the man our film was about.
'Trust me,' Bob said, 'he doesn’t want me there.' It was as if he had some
special cameraman radar and was picking up a vibe that there was this invisible
line that should not be crossed. (Bob told me recently that Shepard was the
hardest and 'most private' subject he’s ever dealt with in all his years
"But we respected that line and slowly, over the months that followed, we gained
Shepard’s trust (or at least resigned acceptance – or maybe he just forgot we
were there!) and Bob was able to move around and film him from the front. Then,
one day, after repeatedly putting off our request for a one-on-one on-camera
interview, Shepard turned to me and said something like, 'OK, let’s go do this.'
We found a corner near a window so we wouldn’t have to take time to put up
lights or spoil the mood and filmed an almost two-hour conversation. Shepard
went into a deeply personal exploration of his life and career, something he
never did again on camera, and something that would never have happened if Bob
had barged in front of him on our first day.
When Jacoby was asked what memory stands out for him today,
"I remember a moment when we were filming him doing a series of plays in
New York and he was collaborating with different directors and one of them was
Joe Chaikin, who had been somebody that he really admired and learned a lot from
in his early days as a playwright. Joe Chaikin had recently suffered a stroke
and had aphasia and didn't have the same language that he'd had as a younger man
when they'd worked together. And to see how Sam was very protective of Chaikin
and kind of loved and respected him and wanted to, you know, help him still be
able to work, even though he'd been through this illness — it was just a very
tender moment watching them working together."
"And another great moment I remember with Sam is we were in a
rehearsal room and there was an upright piano in a corner, and in a break in the
rehearsal, he went over and started pounding out this amazing kind of jazz blues
on the piano, Albert Ammons or one of these 1920s Harlem piano players."
November 30, 2017
Colette Bancroft, writing for the Tampa Bay Times, reviews
Sam's latest book -
"A brief and impressionistic novella... Spare, but
not slight, surreal yet stoic, an intriguing and moving glimpse into what
falls away and what still matters at the end... Fame and celebrity make no
appearances in Spy. Instead, its dying narrator focuses on the
landscape and the natural world: the songs of birds, the color of flowers,
beloved dogs and horses. His memories are not of awards and parties, stages
and movie sets, but of the youths of his children, of his travels as a young
man, of living in a condemned building in New York with no money but the
world open before him."
And Alasdair Lees of UK's Independent writes,
"Clocking in just over 80 pages, Spy of the First
Person is clearly partly autobiographical, narrated by a man in his
later years being treated for a crippling illness. ...captivates in
its distillation of many of Shepard’s enduring themes - the death of
America’s frontier, identity and loneliness... There’s foreboding amid the
wistfulness, but it’s tempting to read this novella as Shepard looking at
America in a more elegiac light... Shepard illuminates loneliness
beautifully in this slight but rich and moving final work."
November 28, 2017
I've added another article in the "press"
section that was written as a tribute to Sam by David Rooney of The Hollywood
Reporter. Here's an excerpt:
"His single scene as the suicidal alcoholic poet in the otherwise patchy 2013
screen version of Tracy Letts’ great play, August: Osage County, was the
film’s one moment of lingering emotional impact — far more arresting than all
the showy histrionics of Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts combined."
Speaking of Streep, there's an interesting article written by Michael Bloom on
the American Theatre web site called "Streep and Shepard: 2 Straight
Arrows Ascending". You can read it
at this link. Here's an excerpt:
"Although their paths never crossed, Shepard and Streep followed a common
trajectory from theatre fame to cinema stardom. As a highly trained stage
performer, Streep took to film acting with great ease. On the other hand, just
as with playwriting, Shepard learned on the job. In his early films, directors
cut as many of his lines as they could but couldn’t resist his authentic Western
look and smoldering sexuality. Eventually film acting became a way for Shepard
to finance farms, livestock, horses, and polo racing. But no matter how many
acting gigs he took for the money, no matter how many books of prose produced,
Shepard continued to return to the theatre, a lover he never forsook."
November 25, 2017
An evening called "Remembering Sam Shepard" will be
held Tuesday, December 5, 2017 from 7 to 9 pm at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity
Church in Brooklyn. Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye, and Tony Shanahan present an
evening of words and music to commemorate the publication of Sam's last book,
SPY OF THE FIRST PERSON. It is co-presented by PEN
America and Knopf, with Books are Magic. Tickets are $30 (includes a copy of
Sam's book). How admirable of Patti Smith to continue to pay homage to her
one-time lover and friend when another famous ex-lover has done jack squat since
* * * * *
an improvised drama, inspired by the plays of Sam Shepard, will be coming to
Chicago in January. Directed by Rachael Mason and staged at the Blackout
Cabaret, performances will be held on Sundays at 8 pm from January 7-28, 2018.
The description follows: "A family dinner to remember. Come see Rachael Mason’s
Dramatic Improvisors at the dysfunctional family table as they take inspiration
from Sam Shepard plays like Buried Child, True West, and Curse
of the Starving Class."
* * * * *
Question of the Day: Did Johnny Dark and Sam ever
reconcile before his death? Is Johnny the only one who knows?
November 22, 2017
Boston's Museum of Fine Arts has announced a screening of "Paris,
Texas" on Sunday, December 24, 2017 at 2:00 pm at the
Harry and Mildred Remis Auditorium. Its
star, Harry Dean Stanton, often claimed of all the movies he acted in, this was
his favorite. In the film summary, MFA writes:
Stanton liked to tell the story of how he landed the
role, which began with a drunken conversation with his friend Sam Shepard in
a bar in Santa Fe. "I was telling him I was sick of the roles I was
playing," Stanton recalled in a 1986 interview. "I told him I wanted to play
something of some beauty or sensitivity. I had no inkling he was considering
me for the lead in his movie." A few days later, Shepard called Stanton at
his LA home to offer him the part of Travis, 'a role that called for the
actor to remain largely silent … as a lost, broken soul trying to put his
life back together and reunite with his estranged family after having
vanished years earlier.'
* * * * *
Jeanne Moreau and Sam Shepard died in the same week,
the playwright at 73 on July 27, the actress at 89 on July 31. Their obituaries
were paired in the pages of the New York Times and Antonio Banderas posted their
photographs side by side with his message on the Los Angeles Times remembrance
blog: "thank you for enlightening us at 24 frames per second."
* * * * *
Letters from Shepard to Dark - November 28, 2009
"Just got finished bawling my eyes out after reading the
deaths of Lee and Grant you sent me. Thanks for that. Good thing I was on the
farm alone so no one could witness my wailings and carrying on to the trees, the
sky, the wind, etc. - a full out King Lear breakdown. Felt very good after.
Cleaned out. Maybe that's how it is. Felt very good after dying. No problem.
It's life that's a bitch."
"Thanksgiving passed with all the usual frenzied cooking,
then devouring of the bird & all the fancy side dishes, then the washing up; the
screaming kids, the tense terse conversations with relatives you don't know &
only see at Thanksgiving & Xmas."
* * * * *
Here's hoping your Thanksgiving will be a more joyous
occasion with both love and turkey passed around the table!
November 19, 2017
A couple years ago photographer Laura Wilson put together a
231-page coffee-table book of photos. It was called "That Day: Pictures in the
American West". Among her photographic essays was the one below, taken in
June 2012 at the Santa Fe Institute.
That same day Ms. Wilson was also a guest at his New Mexico
home, an adobe house, ten miles out of town. This next photo shows Sam in his
yard showing off a fancy new fly rod to his photographer, casting here and
there, demonstrating its capabilities. Such a Shepardesque photo session!
November 16, 2017
Poet M Sarki's review of "Spy of the
"The death of Sam Shepard creates a sudden void in the
landscape of contemporary literature. This talented writer, dramatist, horseman,
actor, and musician leaves as his final gift to those of us fortunate to have
known his body of work a thinly veiled memoir of the first rank. In prose
reminiscent at times of his good friend Patti Smith, Shepard eventually recounts
the last of his precious days on earth surrounded by his loving family and
friends. In one poignant sentence Shepard affirms that in a span of one year he
went from being a fiercely independent and private wanderer traveling in his
pickup truck to a man in a wheelchair who can barely raise his head and cannot
possibly wipe his own ass. There is nothing sentimental or self-serving in this
book. Shepard’s honesty on the page remains as seething as his life. A testament
to one great artist, and for some, a very good friend."
* * * * *
Actress Analeigh Tipton, who co-starred with Sam in James
Franco's "In Dubious Battle", claims, "In 2015,
I went on a road trip with Sam Shepard. He gave me a dime to toss into the
Mississippi River as we drove across the bridge. It hit a support beam and
missed the water. I would introduce him to Cracker Barrel and he would tell me
about his horses. We ate bags and bags of Bugles as we passed through plains as
far as our eyes could see. Rest In Peace in the plains, Sam."
Umm... Interesting. I thought he enjoyed solo road trips.
November 13, 2017
Booklist has published a review of "Spy of the First
A gorgeously courageous and sagacious coda to Shepard’s
innovative and soulful body of work.
A meshing of memoir and invention, it snares with
virtuoso precision both nature’s constant vibrancy and the stop-action of
illness. Told in short takes pulsing with life and rueful wit, it portrays
one man spying on another from across the street, raising binoculars to
better watch his subject struggling to make the simplest motions and family
members appearing from within the house to offer help and company. As for
the nearly immobilized man, he is remembering his immigrant mother, a
troubling night in New York City, and visits to a famous Arizona clinic in
pursuit of a ‘magic cure.’ He also offers acid commentary on episodes in
American history, and revels in the resonance of words.
Gradually the spy and the man on the porch merge, and the
resilient yet reconciled narrator celebrates family love beneath a full moon
in the farewell beauty of twilight.
The book is also available as an Ebook and as an audiobook with reader
Michael Shannon. Here is the official author photo.
From the beginning of the book:
Seen from a distance. That is, seeing from across the road, it’s hard to tell
how old he is because of the wraparound screen porch. Because of his wraparound
shades. Purple. Lone Ranger. Masked bandit. I don’t know what he’s protecting.
He’s actually inside an enclosed screen porch with bugs buzzing, birds chirping,
all kinds of summer things going on, on the outside — butterflies, wasps, etc. —
but it’s very hard to tell from this distance exactly how old he is. The
baseball cap, the grimy jeans, the old vest. He’s sitting in a rocking chair, as
far as I can tell. A rocking chair the looks like it was lifted from a Cracker
Barrel. In fact, it still has the broken security chain around one leg. I think
from this distance it’s red but it could be black, the rocker, some of these
colors originate from the Marines, some of them from the Army, some from the Air
Force, depends on the depth of one’s patriotism, and he just rocks all day.
November 12, 2017
Derry Now, November 11, 2017 (edited):
In the autumn of
2013, Sam Shepard spent five weeks in Derry getting to know the city and
attending rehearsals for the Field Day Theatre Company production of his new
play, "A Particle of Dread", which premiered
at the Playhouse in December.
Shepard already had a connection with Derry dating back to the early 70s, but
true to form, it was a strange one. The connection was revealed in an interview
in 1972 at his London home when he explained to a Time Out journalist the origin
of the large, black greyhound that lay dozing on the divan. "This here dawg,"
Sam drawled, "is a real champ. Comes from the north of Ireland. The Bogside."
The greyhound was called Keywall Spectre and Shepard took it racing at Hackney
Wick where it regularly came in first. The dog starting showing up in the new
experimental plays he was writing in London since his relocation from New York
"Geography of a Horse Dreamer" stages the
kidnapping by gangsters of Cody, a young man who has a gift for dreaming the
winners of horse races. Tied to a bed in a London hotel room, he loses his power
to dream of horses and begins to dream the winners of greyhound races instead.
The play opened at the Royal Court Theatre in February 1974. In the lead role of
Cody was a young Irish actor beginning to make a name for himself – Stephen Rea.
This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship and artistic partnership that
would eventually bring Sam Shepard to Derry.
* * * * *
November 11, 2017
For over 40 years, colleges and universities throughout the
English-speaking world have had strong connections to Sam Shepard in their drama
departments. Several professors have written books or developed courses in the
study of his many plays. And, in return, many of these institutions have honored
our playwright. One such example is a university in my home state of
Massachusetts. The Brandeis Creative Arts Award recognizes excellence in the
arts and the lives and works of distinguished American artists. Recipients
include Georgia O'Keeffe, Tennessee Williams, Aaron Copland, William Carlos
Williams and yes, Sam Shepard, but only a select group were recognized twice.
Sam received a Brandeis Creative Arts Award Citation in 1976 and a medal in
When he was recognized in 1976, he was unable to be in New
York to receive the award in person, but he sent theater producer and director
Wynn Handman to accept it on his behalf and submitted an acceptance speech.
* * * * *
I came across some new movie stills from
(2006), a 1950s drama set in a small town starring Jason Patric. Sam plays this
shady, sharp-dressed hustler named Syrus and his performance got him some
positive reviews. However, after premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, it was
disappointing to see the film go straight to DVD. If you're a pet lover, you're
probably going to find this a tough watch because it's about dog fighting. If
you're up to it though, you can rent it at Amazon Video. Such a classic diner
scene below. Bet he'll order some apple pie & coffee.
November 8, 2017
David Yaffe's "Restless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell" was released last
month. The legendary singer-songwriter discusses her cocaine addiction
that began when she hooked up with Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue in
1975. Of her affair with Sam during that tour, she says, "For me, on coke, I
found him very attractive."
(Laughing) Well, Joni, most of us found him very attractive
without the coke!
* * * * *
The first issue of American Theatre magazine came out
in April 1984 and it featured an American icon - Sam Shepard in cowboy hat and
flannel shirt, brow furrowed against the sun's glare, cigarette dangling. You
can read the interview here.
November 5, 2017
Today would have been Sam Shepard's 74th birthday. It's easy
to remember because it's just nine days before my own 74th celebration so I
definitely feel a strong kinship. With all my health issues, I never expected I
would outlive Sam but I suspected his oncoming death over the past year with the
absence of any appearances and, most importantly, the frightening images of him
in his last photo shoot.
I began this web site 12 years ago on his 62nd birthday in
hopes that it would become a place for all things Shepard and it has obviously
obtained that distinction. The Sam Shepard Web Site will continue to stay
online, even if I should pass on as well. Of course, news will continue to
diminish over the coming months but I consider it a worthwhile effort to
maintain this archive of his life and career. The photo below is the one I keep
here on my desk.
* * * * *
Here are a few excerpts from Bilge Ebiri of Village Voice
magazine in an excellent article called "Drifters, Romantics and Madmen", which
compares Sam's career to Dennis Hopper's. I was a major Hopper fan through the
years and have seen almost every one of his films. "Blue Velvet" is a favorite.
For the full Village Voice article,
follow this link.
"It’s probably pure coincidence that BAM is presenting a week
of Sam Shepard films right as the Metrograph screens five days of Dennis
Hopper–directed titles... No two actors of their generation better expressed the
modern iteration of the lonesome cowboy — that dying myth of the all-American
wanderer. Their careers regularly threatened to intersect, but the two almost
never worked together... They were, in some way, opposites — separate sides of
the same coin... They might have come to represent two competing, bygone
visions of American manhood, but they also never lost their connection to the
now, and never stopped experimenting."
* * * * *
The first review of Sam's upcoming book - "Spy of the
First Person" by Kirkus Reviews:
A sharply observed, slender novel set in familiar Shepard
(The One Inside, 2017, etc.) territory: a dusty, windblown West of limitless
horizons and limited means of escape.
An image at the beginning of what is billed as the recently deceased
Shepard’s final work of fiction—until the next one is found in a drawer,
presumably—offers arresting portent: robins are singing, chirping away, not
so much out of happiness with the world but, as the nameless narrator says,
“I think mostly protecting nests" from all the "big bad birds" that are out
to get their little blue eggs. The world is full of big bad birds, and one
is the terror of a wasting neurological disease that provides the novel’s
closing frame: two sons and an ailing father lagging behind the rest of
their family as they make their way up the street in a little desert ville.
"We made it and we hobbled up the stairs,” says the old man. “Or I hobbled.
My sons didn’t hobble, I hobbled."
It’s exactly of a piece with "True West" and other early
Shepard standards, and one can imagine Shepard himself playing the part of
that old man in an understated, stoical film. In between, it’s all
impression, small snapshots of odd people and odd moments ("People are
unlocking their cars from a distance. Pushing buttons, zapping their cars,
making the doors buzz and sing, making little 'Close Encounters of the Third
It’s easy to lose track of where one voice ends and
another begins, where the young man leaves off and the old man picks up the
story: explaining the title, the young narrator likens himself to an
employee of a "cryptic detective agency," even as the old man, taking up the
narration in turn, wonders why he’s being so closely watched when he can
barely move. In the end, this is a story less of action than of mood, and
that mood is overwhelmingly, achingly melancholic.
The story is modest, the poetry superb. A most worthy valediction.
November 2, 2017
Interview magazine (11/2/17) - excerpt of conversation
between two filmmakers - Francis Ford Coppola and Greta Gerwig.
Greta: I once went through a major Sam Shepard phase,
and I thought, "I’m completely in the wrong place, and I’m the wrong gender! And
I’m also not a heavy drinker! And I need to somehow become a wild man and go out
to the West and learn how to rope cattle!"
Coppola: I don’t think Sam Shepard knew how to rope cattle. [yes, he did!]
Greta: Well, he seemed like he did! I think the problem with growing up and
idealizing self-destructive artists is that you only see the beauty they created
rather than all the pain that went along with it. But then I read Joan Didion,
and it was the first time I’d read something by an artist—a great artist—who was
working in the same place I was from and writing about it, and it was the first
inkling I had that maybe I didn’t need to be a different person in order to make
something that was worth anything.
I heartily recommend Greta Gerwig's film, "Frances Ha" for
originality and humor. And Joan Didion's book, "The Year of Magical Thinking."
What a writer!
* * * * *
Fall 2004 Stage Preview - New York Magazine
Sam Shepard, the Silent Type by Ada Calhoun
[telephone interview with Sam]
You’re appearing in Caryl Churchill’s "A Number". What
attracted you to her work?
Sam: Well, it’s kind of hard to say. I encountered the play
in Australia, and I thought it was really fascinating, and I had no idea it
would have a world premiere in New York.
Do you feel a kinship between your work and hers?
Sam: Not really. Only in the sense that I feel she’s also
inspired by Beckett.
Can you talk about your character, Salter?
Sam: No, I can’t. Well, obviously he’s a complicated . . . I
can’t do pocket reviews of this thing. This isn’t going to work.
Um, do you think the play has something to say about cloning?
Sam: I can’t describe the play. It’s too complex. To me, the
cloning aspect is uninteresting. That’s not what it’s about. It has to do with
Can you elaborate on that, what it says about identity?
Sam: I have a feeling this really isn’t going to work. I
can’t capsulize it. I’d really rather not. I can’t capsulize this. Thanks
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