Day out of Days

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Overview

From one of our most admired writers: a collection of stories set mainly in the fertile imaginative landscape of the American West, written with the terse lyricism, cinematic detail, and wry humor that have become Sam Shepard’s trademarks.

A man traveling down Highway 90 West gets trapped alone overnight inside a Cracker Barrel restaurant, where he is tormented by an endless loop of Shania Twain songs on the overhead sound system. A wandering actor returns to his hometown ...

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Overview

From one of our most admired writers: a collection of stories set mainly in the fertile imaginative landscape of the American West, written with the terse lyricism, cinematic detail, and wry humor that have become Sam Shepard’s trademarks.

A man traveling down Highway 90 West gets trapped alone overnight inside a Cracker Barrel restaurant, where he is tormented by an endless loop of Shania Twain songs on the overhead sound system. A wandering actor returns to his hometown against his better instincts and runs into an old friend, who recounts their teenage days of stealing cars, scoring Benzedrine, and sleeping with whores in Tijuana. A Minnesota family travels south for a winter vacation but, caught up in the ordinary tyrannies of family life, remains oblivious to the beauty of the Yucatán Peninsula. A solitary horse rancher muses on Sitting Bull and Beckett amid the jumble of stuff in his big country kitchen—from rusted spurs and Lakota dream-catchers to yellowing pictures of hawks and galloping horses to “snapshots of different sons in different shirts doing different things like fishing, riding mules and tractors; leaning up against their different mothers at radical angles.”

Made up of short narratives, lyrics, and dialogues, Day out of Days sets conversation against tale, song against memory, in a cubistic counterpoint that finally links each piece together. The result is a stunning work of vision and clarity imbued with the vivid reverberations of myth—Shepard at his flinty-eyed, unwavering best.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[Shepard] drills down through the strata of our history into the bedrock of American myth.”—Walter Kirn, The New York Times Book Review

“Expansive and rich. . . . With scenarios that are at once unbearable and irresistible, Shepard casts a predictably haunting spell.” —USA Today
 
“Gorgeous. . . . Searing. . . . Shepard beautifully records the overlooked, strange places men find themselves, both physically and emotionally.” —San Francisco Chronicle
 
“Sharp enough to move a reader to tears. . . . Funny and smart. . . . Profoundly satisfying. . . . The narrator talks out his conflicts . . . with great precision and beauty.” —The Boston Globe

“Expansive, panoramic. Like Bob Dylan, Shepard is a geographer of the rawboned surrealism of America’s shadow interior, story after story bearing the name of a town or highway, our national portrait dabbed with a thousand points of darkness.” –James Wolcott, Vanity Fair
 
“These stories [have a] deep, abiding appeal.” –The Los Angeles Times
 
“This is Shepard’s brilliance—the ability to continually surprise us. He plays with our heads, pushes boundaries, and in the end makes the journey worthwhile.” –The Denver Post
 
“Shepard [is] one of the most lavishly gifted, prolific artists of his generation.” –The Plain Dealer
 
“These deceptively modest works, reflective and witty, explode with fresh energy. Their touches of absurdity give way to a depth of emotional loss that will sneak up and wring your heart dry. [Sam Shepard] is still a star, still a treasure….It takes an eternally young genius like Shepard to make us laugh and wonder.” –The Daily Beast
 
“Shepard’s talent and bent for language is what drives the book. The rhythms. The precision of the words. His instincts on when to give and when to hold back. All together, these pieces take us on a road trip of America, before dropping us off inside ourselves.” –The Providence Journal
 
“His literary voice….[is] strong, unpretentious, and singular….He writes with the kind of authority that makes you believe—and with the kind of depth that makes you think.” –Elle.com
 
“Mournfully funny….Well-observed….As a collection of tiny jewels of language unearthed with great care by a man with a uniquely American voice, it’s unlike anything else.” –The A.V. Club
 
“Read [it] the way the faithful may read their Bibles: a few verses nightly to serve as inspiration, and a shield from despair.” –The L Magazine
 
“No one writes like Shepard or better captures the fallout from American myths: of freedom, entitlement and masculinity.” –The Post and Courier
 
“Powerfully entertaining.” –Richmond Times-Dispatch
 
“Gripping and elusive at the same time….Dark and weirdly funny….There’s something about Shepard that invites awe. Sam Shepard is Samuel Beckett as Marlboro Man….Readers of Hemingway, Cormac McCarthy, Jim Harrison and Thomas McGuane will recognize the type.” –The Hartford Advocate
 
“Always there’s the tremendous poetry of Shepard’s language.” –The Oregonian
 
“Moving….Again and again, we find in Day out of Days, everything in life is a mystery; the road to answers, or even a satisfying sense of place, never ends.” –Chicago Sun Times

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Michael Lindgren
The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and Oscar-nominated actor adds to his mystique with Day Out of Days , a collection that combines the surreal with the gritty, the poetic with the mundane. Shepard's West is a liar's paradise of motel rooms, roadhouses, highways, ghost towns and diners, populated by cowboys, drug addicts, desperate lovers, insomniacs and other assorted weirdos and misfits.
—The Washington Post
Walter Kirn
Shepard's book has no normal beginning, middle and end. Its structure is not sequential but vertical. Using fanciful anecdotes, lyric riffs, seemingly lifelike reminiscences and quotes from our nation's founding thinkers, he drills down through the strata of our history into the bedrock of American myth. He sinks his wells at random, in offbeat spots, taking core samples from all over the country that often contain fossils of shared experience, some of them heavily crusted over with legend. His words have a flinty, mineral integrity, especially when he describes the people around him, who come off as distinctive individuals but also have an enduring archetypal feel, like the iconic figures in Whitman poems. His crackpot vagabonds, working-class survivors and footloose fellow wanderers have been with us always and probably always will be. Their names may change over time but not their souls, which eventually form the ground we're forced to cover as we fan out to seek our fates. But their moans are still audible over our engine noise—if we only slow down enough to hear them in the way that Shepard does.
—The New York Times
Library Journal
The pieces in this collection are called stories, but many are more like fragments. There are poems, dialogs, and miscellaneous items of varying length, from a few lines to several pages, each separately titled. As the reader is drawn in, motifs recur, and themes begin to emerge. Some pieces revolve around a trio of men in varying stages of intoxication traveling aimlessly from place to place, trying to get in touch with someone. Journeys are a major concern, as many of the stories feature solitary travelers or groups going on vacation, waiting in airports, trying to check into motel rooms, or driving through blizzards accompanied by familiar tunes on the radio. There is also the recurring story of a hit man and his occasional musings on the meaning of life and his profession. Stranger still and possibly related, a bodyless head hails a man from the side of the road and starts a conversation. VERDICT This varied and fragmentary collection does add up to a worthwhile literary endeavor. Shepard's gritty and humorous prose style is perfectly suited to the material. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/09.]—Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. at Oneonta
Kirkus Reviews
A table of contents listing 133 (count 'em) entries may tempt readers to dismiss this new collection from Shepard (Great Dream of Heaven, 2002, etc.) as a literary grab bag; they will be richly surprised by its thematic depth and coherence. A quick browse suggests a mix of travelogue, dialogue (unattributed to any speakers), free verse, tall tales, stage directions, journal jottings, dreams and writing that resists categorization. Yet rather than a busman's holiday for the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (Buried Child, etc.) and Oscar-nominated actor (The Right Stuff, etc.), this volume offers a profound meditation on mortality, identity, eternity, blood ties, the passage of time, the essence of America, the mythos of the West and the possibilities of art. It demands to be read in order and in its entirety: Juxtapositions offer thematic links, and narratives that initially appear self-contained resume multiple times over the course of the collection. One of those narratives concerns a severed head that retains consciousness and speech and somehow convinces a passing man to carry him (it?) elsewhere. Another features three buddies whose lives have devolved into traveling from place to place for no apparent purpose. "We're all in terrible shape," says the narrator. "I don't know how we got this way." First-person narration dominates, some of it apparently representing the voice of the author, some of it obviously not. In one of Shepard's more arresting images, "You circle all around your life, but do you find it? You circle from above. Like a hawk." Older rarely means wiser in these pages filled with vagabonds who aren't sure what they're looking for, where they're looking for it or why.They circle back to homes that no longer exist, at least not the way they did in memory. They are "lost souls wandering in the desert," but they can never quite lose themselves. Echoes and resonances across the selections intensify the cumulative impact.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307265401
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/12/2010
  • Pages: 286
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Sam Shepard is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of more than forty-five plays. As an actor, he has appeared in more than thirty films, and received an Oscar nomination in 1984 for The Right Stuff. He was a finalist for the W. H. Smith Literary Award for his story collection Great Dream of Heaven. He lives in New York and Kentucky.

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Read an Excerpt

Kitchen

I’ve always done my best work in the kitchen. I don’t know why. Cooking stuff up. Maybe that’s it. Now I’ve got my own kitchen deep in the country with a big round table smack in the middle. But I am surrounded. I’m not sure who put all this stuff in here. Who jumbled all this up on my white brick walls as though it told some story, made some sense; some whole world out of floating fractured bits and pieces. Pencil drawing of Seattle Slew, long after retirement—bloated pasture-belly, glazed far-off stare in his eye as though looking back to the glory days of the Triple Crown. And, wedged between the glass and flat black frame, snapshots of different sons in different shirts doing different things like fishing, riding mules and tractors; leaning up against their different mothers at radical angles. Postcards of nineteenth-century Lakota warriors like Gaul, adopted son of Sitting Bull, price on his head; left for dead only to come back and seek his perfect vengeance at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Henry Miller with a walking stick, black beret, sitting on a rock wall gesticulating to the camera, some quote about morality and why don’t we just give ourselves over completely and unabashedly to the present, since we’re all up against the same grim prospect anyway; same sinking ship. Slaves in sepia tone, harvesting bluegrass seed and whistling “Dixie.” Wedged between the tile and brick, more pix of hawks and galloping horses out near where we used to chase skinny coyotes back into the tangled mesquite and ocotillo. Then Beckett’s sorrowful bespectacled hawk-face, gazing into oblivion with no trace of self-pity, resigned, hands clasped between his knees. Underneath in neat black scrawl: “There is no return game between a man and his stars.”

Who scrambled all this stuff in here with no seeming regard for associative order, shape, or color? Without the slightest care for where it might all wind up. Just randomly pinned to cupboards and door frames, slipping sideways; gathering spotted stove grease and fly shit. El Santuario de Chimayó, for instance, caked in Christmas snow, but what’s it doing right next door to a business card for my horseshoer with an anvil and hammer logo? Then, working up the wall, there’s the little bay in Lubec, Maine, where another set of rum-running ancestors lay long buried, then magic stones from Bernalillo, Wounded Knee, the painted stick, guts of the dream catcher, antelope, prairie dog, old speckled racing greyhounds flying off the tailgates; rusted spurs on the back of the black walnut door. What’s all this shit for? Some display for who? For me? What for? Some guest or other? I have no guests. You know that. I’m no host. Never have been. Maybe the old Sonoran man who drops off split oak but no real visitors, that’s for sure. Everyone knows to stay far away. Especially now with the tiger-brindled pit bull out front. The screaming burro kicking buckets down the hill. The fighting gallo in attack mode. I’m in this bunker all my own, surrounded by mysterious stuff. It may be time to take a break and walk back out into the dripping black woods where I know the hollowed-out Grandaddy Sycamore sits and waits for you to climb inside and breathe up into its bone-white aching arms.

Haskell, Arkansas

(Highway 70)

Sunday, midday. Not many cars. Man’s out for a stroll. He comes across a head in a ditch by the side of the road; walks right past it, thinking he hasn’t seen what he’s just seen; thinking it’s not possible. He stops. His heart starts picking up a little. His breath gets choppy. He’s shaking now and he’s never understood why his body always takes over in moments of panic like this; why his body refuses to listen to his head. He turns and goes back. He stops again and stares down into the ditch. There it is. Big as life. He’s staring straight at it. A severed head in a wicker basket. He picks up a stick and pokes it like he’s done before with dead dogs or deer. The skin puffy and blue and the eyes shut tight, squinting as though frozen in the moment of amputation. The head sporting a Pancho Villa–style moustache; two buckteeth slightly visible; a single spot of blood on the lower lip. No other signs of gore. No dangling arteries or purple mess. It’s a cleanly decapitated head resting flat in the bottom of a basket with what looks like burlap tucked neatly around the abbreviated neck. Black locks of matted hair dangle in snaky coils down both ears. The body is nowhere in sight. The man is relieved about that. In fact, he hopes he doesn’t stumble across it in the same way he came across the head. That might be more than he could handle at this point.

Suddenly, the head starts to speak to the man in a soft, lilting voice. The eyes of the head don’t open; the lips don’t move. The voice just seems to be floating out the top of the skull. It’s a humble, quiet kind of voice with no accent that the man can make out. Maybe the islands. The head asks the man if he’ll kindly pick up the basket and carry it to a place it would prefer to be. A tranquil place not too far from here, away from the pounding sun and the roar of traffic. The head tells the man it’s been hard for him to think straight in this miserable ditch. Panic takes hold of the man and he runs. He runs so fast and desperately that he quickly exhausts himself and falls down flat on his face. He hasn’t fallen so completely flat as this since he was a little kid running away from his father; running for his life. With his teeth in the dirt the man hears the head calling out to him in the most forlorn and melancholy voice the man has ever heard. It makes his whole heart ache. The man pulls himself up off the ground, spitting little grains of sand. He turns and returns to the head. He can’t help himself. His heart is pounding wildly. He tells the head he doesn’t want to be involved; this was purely accidental, this meeting between the two of them, and he wants to just continue on his way as though the whole thing never happened. The head pleads with the man and the voice of the head is so full of yearning that the man remains rooted to the ground. The head tells him he’s been calling out for days to the passing cars but no one hears him, no one stops. The man is the first one to stop. This makes the man feel important somehow; the idea that he might be some kind of hero. He likes that idea and his heart begins to relax and return to normal. The man asks the head, very tentatively, where it is he might want to be taken and the head answers, “A lake, not too far from here. It won’t take very long. You can just throw me into the flat water and then be on your way.” The man considers for a moment then agrees to carry the head on one condition and that is that the head will please not speak to him anymore other than to give him simple clear directions on how to get to the lake and, above all, he should never again make that mournful, melancholy sound. The head agrees eagerly to all this and immediately goes silent.

When the man bends over to pick up the head in the basket he discovers it’s much heavier than he would have imagined. It must weigh fifty pounds or more. Dead weight. The head laughs then quickly stops itself, not wanting to anger the man; not wanting the man to think he’s being made fun of. The man hoists the basket up to his waist and carries the head a few yards on his hip, like a mother would carry an infant, then sets it down, panting and gasping. The head laughs in spite of itself and the man becomes angry, just as the head had anticipated. “What’s so funny?” demands the man but the head won’t answer. The man immediately storms off feeling that he’s been the brunt of some joke. The head calls out again in the most heartbreaking, plangent voice the man has ever heard. It stops him cold in his tracks. “You promised me you wouldn’t make that awful sound again!” the man screams.

“I’m sorry,” says the head, “but it’s the only way to get your attention.” The man walks reluctantly back to the head and stops in front of it. He feels now that he’s hooked on this head. He stares down at it. The head is silent again. The eyes remain closed and squinting tight. There seems to be no life in the head at all. The man knows different. “How did you get separated from your body?” asks the man point-blank. This is the question that’s been haunting him.

“I was beheaded,” says the head.

“How?” asks the man.

“By a gleaming silver saber,” says the head.

“But who held the saber? Who brought it down on your neck?”

“I never saw it coming,” says the head.

“But you must have known it was coming,” says the man.

“Yes, but it didn’t help.”

“What?” says the man.

“Knowing. Knowing didn’t help.”

“So, you have no idea who it might have been?” asks the man.

“I have many ideas but it doesn’t matter now.”

“Don’t you want to seek your vengeance?” asks the man. The head starts laughing and can’t stop. “Don’t laugh at me!” screams the man. The head stops. “I can’t stand that,” says the man. “All my life I’ve been laughed at.”

“I’m sorry,” says the head.

“I can’t carry you, that’s for sure. You’re way too heavy,” says the man and the head begins to weep. Tears roll out of the squinting eyes.

“Don’t do that,” says the man. “I can’t stand it if you do that.”

“You’re my only chance,” says the head, trying to control itself.

“You’re way heavier than I expected,” insists the man.

“Just try lifting the basket up to your shoulder. It’s much easier that way.”

“I can’t,” says the man.

“You can’t or you won’t?” asks the head.

“I can’t.”

“You must,” says the head.

“Why must I? I don’t even know you! You can’t just start ordering me around. I’m doing you a favor!”

“You owe it to yourself,” says the head.

“What!” exclaims the man, turning his back on the head altogether. “I’m just walking along here on Highway 70, minding my own business, like I do every Sunday afternoon about this time, and I happen to stumble across a head in a basket and now you’re telling me what I owe myself! You don’t even know me!”

“All the more reason,” says the head.

“All the more reason, what!” shouts the man.

“All the more reason you should take it upon yourself.”

“I’m not following you,” says the man.

“You owe me your life,” says the head and the man freezes.

“What?” says the man.

“You heard me,” says the head. “If you walk away and abandon me, you will pay the price,” and now the voice of the head has dropped several octaves and taken on a gravity that is truly shocking to the man’s central nervous system. He can feel the highway tremble beneath him. His breath quickens and his mouth goes dry.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” asks the man, his voice quavering like grass in the wind.

“Turn your back on me and you will find out,” says the head. The man stands there staring up and down the nearly empty highway. He feels as though his knees are about to buckle. Far off, in the village he can hear the chimes of the Episcopal church playing “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” He knows the tune well. He remembers being a choirboy in that same church. A lime-green Camaro goes flashing by. Bald teenagers with snakes tattooed around their mouths are yelling insults at him out the windows. A bottle of Coors Light goes whizzing past his cheekbone. The man now begins to feel as though he is the abandoned one and not the head. He feels as though he could make the same terrible mournful moan that the head was making but nothing comes out. No sound at all, just a terrified rasping like a lost animal. The man wonders how he could be so suddenly separated from his former life, his former self. And then an even deeper terror wells up that he can’t remember ever having a former life. Who was he, first thing this morning after coffee, stepping out the door on the way toward this Sunday stroll?

“All right!” says the man abruptly, as though to shake himself out of this terrible doubt. “I’ll try it, I’ll try carrying you, just for a while,” and he hoists the head in the basket up to his hip again and then with a tremendous grunt heaves the basket up to his shoulder where he teeters precariously like an Olympic weight lifter. The head mimics the sound of a gigantic crowd roaring approval. It sounds absolutely realistic. The man has the impression again that the head is making fun of him but proceeds nevertheless, weaving with the weight of it; basket on his shoulder going in the direction the head has proclaimed.

“You’re doing very well,” the head says sincerely. “I’m proud of you.”

“Don’t try to butter me up,” says the man. “You don’t even know me.”

“I know you better than you know yourself,” says the head.

“Who are you!” demands the man.

“Never mind about that. Just keep following the road.” The man is wobbling badly. The cords in his neck are burning from the weight. His sides are heaving. He’s not used to this kind of labor. He’s grown accustomed to a soft, passive existence where nothing happens, nothing counts; where no single day ever stands out more than any other single day; where dreaming and waking all run together; where all the people in his life have disappeared and his main pursuits are napping and watching Mexican soap operas cast with dark-haired weeping beauties and the fantasies they evoke. He suddenly collapses under a concrete viaduct and drops the basket beside him. The head rolls out and comes to rest with the black gaping hole of the severed neck sticking straight up. The man stares into the hole, gasping for air, and listens to the voice of the head speaking very calmly: “We just need to make a right turn here, after the bridge, and then follow the irrigation ditch. It’s not very far.”

“I can’t,” protests the man. “I’ve had enough now! I’m going to leave you here.” The head screams and begins to weep again and the sound of it makes the man’s whole body quake. He feels as though he’s been struck by lightning.

“Don’t do that, please,” says the man. “I’m begging you. I can’t take it. I’ve told you that. The sound of your weeping and moaning reminds me of everything I want to forget. Everything I’ve put to death in order to go on.”

“Then, finish carrying me to the lake,” says the head.

“I don’t think I’m physically capable,” says the man. “It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that— I can’t.”

“Then, turn me over at least,” says the head.

“What?”

“Turn me right side up.”

“I’m not going to touch you,” says the man.

“Just nudge me with your knee.”

“What?”

“Nudge me with your knee. I’ll roll right over.” The man musters his courage and nudges the black neck of the head with his knee and the head rolls over, right side up, just as the head implied. “Now put me back in the basket, please.”

“I’m not going to touch you!” repeats the man. “You keep talking me into these things against my will.”

“Are you afraid that if you touch me you might disappear?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” asks the man.

“You might cross the line? Pass out and never return to your body?”

“You’re the one with no body,” says the man.

“Exactly,” says the head. “Now, just grab me by the hair and drop me back in the basket, please.”

“No!” shouts the man. “I’m not grabbing you by the hair! It would be like taking hold of a handful of snakes.” Again, the head releases his doleful wail and, before the man even realizes what he’s doing, he’s snatched the head up by the hair and plopped it back in the basket.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” says the head. “I’m deeply grateful.”

“You’re like a spoiled child,” says the man indignantly.

“I’m like nothing you’ve ever come across,” says the head.

“Well, it’s nothing to be proud of,” says the man.

“Pick me up once more,” says the head. “And this time lift me all the way up to the top of your head and carry me up there.”

“Are you crazy?” says the man. “I can’t possibly lift you all the way up to the top of my head. I could barely carry you on my hip.”

“Yes, you can,” says the head. “Just make one tremendous effort. Make an effort like you’ve never made before in your entire life. As though it were a matter of life and death.”

“I don’t have it in me,” says the man. “Those days are long gone.”

“Stand up and give it a whirl,” says the head. “Be a man.”

“Are you intentionally insulting me?” asks the man.

“I’m offering you a chance to be.”

“I’ve got nothing to prove,” says the man.

“Then go away and leave me alone,” says the head abruptly.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to do all along,” says the man. “Since the moment I met you.”

“Do it,” says the head. “See if you can. Just walk away.”

“You threatened me before. You said I would pay the price if I turned my back on you.”

“There’ll be no repercussions,” says the head. “Believe me. Just walk away.”

And now the man feels more alone than he’s ever felt in his life. A deep, crushing aloneness that presses down through his chest. It’s the very same feeling he’s been trying to avoid since he was a little boy. The feeling he shakes off every morning when he stumbles toward his toothbrush and every night when he clicks off the light. Without thinking, he reaches down and grabs the handles of the wicker basket and with a mighty heave swings the head up to his shoulder and then, with a final grunt, manages to place the basket on top of his head. He has no idea how he’s accomplished this all at once but feels suddenly all right about himself; as though the sun has just popped out from behind the clouds.

“Now we’re going to look like a man with two heads staggering down the highway,” says the man to the head. “One on top of the other.”

“We are a man with two heads,” says the head brightly from his lofty perch.

“No,” says the man. “We’re two separate things. You don’t belong to me. I just found you by the side of the road. Don’t forget that.”

“Whatever you like,” says the head. “Keep straight ahead. I can see the lake from here.”

“What’s it look like?” asks the man.

“Flat. Green. Absolutely peaceful.”

“Is it what you were hoping for?” says the man.

“We’ll see when we get there,” answers the head.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Kitchen 3

Haskell, Arkansas (Highway 70) 5

Chatter 14

Williams, Arizona (Highway 40 West) 16

Duarte 19

One Night in the Long-Ago 21

Indianapolis (Highway 74) 23

These Recent Beheadings 37

Classic Embrace 38

Alpine, Texas (Highway 90) 40

Mission San Juan Capistrano 43

Pity the Poor Mercenary 45

Quanah, Texas 47

Pea Ridge Battlefield, Arkansas 48

San Juan Bautista (Highway 152) 49

Brain Fever 55

Tops 56

Thor's Day (Highway 81 North, Staunton, Virginia) 57

Cracker Barrel Men's Room (Highway 90 West) 67

Face 70

Costello 71

Time Line 80

Shame 81

Esmeralda and the Flipping Hammer (Highway 152, continued) 82

Tet Offensive 85

Mean Green 86

Poolside Musings in Sunny L.A. 87

Seminole, Texas 88

Las Vegas, New Mexico 89

Nauvoo, Illinois 92

Little People 93

These Days - Grand Canyon 95

Lost Art of Wandering (Highway 152, continued) 96

Duke of Earl 102

Taos 103

Wyoming (Highway 80 East) 104

Buffalo Trace 106

Our Dwelling Is but a Wandering 108

Original Sin 109

Comanche 111

Choirboy Once 112

Cat in a Barn at Night 114

Philip, South Dakota (Highway 73) 115

Nephophobia (Veterans Highway) 116

Victorville, California (Highway 15) 118

Elko, Nevada (Thunderbird Motel) 120

Llanos 123

Faith, South Dakota (Interstate 25) 124

Reason 125

Horses Racing Men 126

Man O'War 127

"Shoe" 128

Lightning Man 129

Saving Fats 131

Bossier City, Louisiana (Highway 220) 141

Shreveport, Louisiana 144

Casey Moan 145

Mr. Williams 147

Five Spot 149

Knoxville, Tennessee (Highway 40) 150

Head in the World 153

Suddenly 155

Tall Thin White Man 156

Perpetual Warrior 159

Livingston, Montana 160

Lost Whistle163

She 165

Majesty (Highway 101 South) 166

Bright Spots 168

High Noon Moon (Highway 152, continued) 169

Orange Grove in My Past 172

Kingman, Arizona (Andy Devine Boulevard) 174

Van Horn, Texas (Highway 10) 175

Mercenary Takes a Stab at Self-Improvement 177

Interview in Cafe Pascual 179

June Bugs 182

Herdbound 183

Nine Below 184

Stillwater 185

Dawson, Minnesota (Highway 212 East) 186

Demon in the Woods 187

Gardening in the Dark 188

Happy Man 189

Promising Two-Year-Old 190

Mandan, North Dakota (Highway 94) 191

Miles City, Montana (Highway 94 West) 193

Wichita, Kansas (Highway 35 North) 194

Valentine, Nebraska (Highway 20) 195

Christopher Columbus 197

Devil's Music (Montana, Highway 2) 198

I Can Make a Deal 200

Butte, Montana 201

Get Out of Butte Altogether 203

Ft. Robinson, Nebraska (Highway 20) 204

Wounded Knee, Pine Ridge Reservation 205

Rosebud, South Dakota (Highway 83 North) 207

I Thought There Was a Hawk 208

Mojado 209

Normal (Highway 39 South) 210

Elkhorn River 213

Horse 214

Descendancy 215

Durango, Mexico 217

Tulum, Mexico 218

Boca Paila, Mexico 220

Mosquitoes 221

Quintana Roo, Mexico 222

Dogs Really Know 223

Land of the Living 224

Screened-in Porch 240

Clarksville, Missouri (Little Dixie Highway) 241

Where Are We Now? 243

The Head Reflects 244

Bernalillo 245

We Sat Around in Rosy Candlelight 246

Black Oath 247

Paul 249

Things You Learn from Others 250

Rape and Pillage 251

Should He Head North 257

Lost Coin 260

Circling 261

There's a Man in a Pay Phone 262

Back in the Woods 263

Holyoke 266

One Stone 267

Regrets of the Head 268

Indio, California 269

Wisconsin Wilderness 270

Distant Songs of Madmen 277

These Pills 278

Rogers, Arkansas (Highway 62) 280

Gracias 282

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

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(2)

4 Star

(4)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 10 of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Shadows of the West come to life in a collection of vignettes

    I found myself feeling a sense of guilt as I started reading this collection of short stories by Sam Shepard. It felt as if I was reading someone's journal, their diary, with all their personal ramblings being exposed to me, a stranger. I got over that, and went on to really enjoy this collection that contains very short stories, snippets of conversations, memories, poems, observations, and random musings. Shepard writes in the voice of a distant loner, hardened by truth and reality but still seeking, looking for a kind of lost artifact or talisman.
    Some of the poems have titles, but most are simple and unadorned. Without the title (and sometimes without punctuation) you are left to figure out the point, and each reader could likely come away with a different impression.
    Horses racing men
    Mummies on the mend
    What's all this gauze bandaging
    Unraveled down the stairs
    Has come apart
    In here
    Something without end (p. 126)

    In "Rosebud, South Dakota (Highway 83 North)" he describes a deceptively simple scene:

    Lakota church, "Open to Anyone", it says, but no one's here. Not a single sorry soul. And it's the Sabbath too. Imagine that. Sunday abandoned. Just constant wind ripping across the tattered yards and buried fences. Constant endless prairie breath. Like it's always been. Now and evermore. Unrelenting. Raw. And could care less about the state of the Union.

    Shepard's subjects are dry, tired, lost, searching, guilty, sarcastic, sardonic, and grim. They inhabit truck stops, rest stops, desert paths and windy valleys. Remarkably, reading these doesn't feel depressing or dispiriting. Instead, it's almost like putting a story behind that stranger you noticed outside the diner's plate glass window, or hitchhiking outside of town, or passing you on the open rural road in that old dirty Ford pickup.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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