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Sam Shepard: A Life
     

Sam Shepard: A Life

by John J. Winters
 

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With more than 55 plays to his credit, including the 1979 Pulitzer Prize-winning Buried Child, Sam Shepard’s impact on American theater ranks with the greatest playwrights of the past half-century. Critics have enthused that he “forged a whole new kind of American play,” while younger playwrights venerate him – Suzan Lori Parks, herself a

Overview


With more than 55 plays to his credit, including the 1979 Pulitzer Prize-winning Buried Child, Sam Shepard’s impact on American theater ranks with the greatest playwrights of the past half-century. Critics have enthused that he “forged a whole new kind of American play,” while younger playwrights venerate him – Suzan Lori Parks, herself a Pulitzer winner, calls Shepard her “gorgeous north star.”

As an actor who’s appeared in more than 50 feature films, Shepard possesses an onscreen persona that’s been aptly summed up as “Gary Cooper in denim.” He earned an Oscar nod for his portrayal of Chuck Yeager in the 1983 film The Right Stuff, and his screenplay for Paris, Texas helped that now-classic film sweep the top prizes at the Cannes Film Festival.

Despite these accomplishments and more – five collections of prose, writing songs with Bob Dylan, making films with Robert Frank and Michelangelo Antonioni, as well as romantic relationships with rocker Patti Smith and actress Jessica Lange – Shepard seems anything but satisfied. Sam Shepard: A Life details his lifelong bouts of insecurity and anxiety, and delves deeply into his relationship with his alcoholic father and his own battle with the bottle. Also examined for the first time in-depth are Shepard’s tumultuous relationship with Lange, and his decades-long adherence to the teachings of Russian spiritualist G.I. Gurdjieff.

Throughout this new biography, John J. Winters gets to the heart of the enigma that is Sam Shepard, presenting an honest and comprehensive account of his life and work.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"John Winters offers a master class in literary sleuthing, untangling the many lives and unearthing the origin story of America’s foremost Renaissance man of letters, Sam Shepard. One part literary detective story, one part un-put-downablepage-turner, Sam Shepard: A Lifewill serve as the definitive account of one of the 20thcentury’s most enigmatic, beguiling and beloved figures of the stage, screen and page." —Kelly Horan, WBUR radio and co-author ofDevotion and Defiance: My Journey in Love, Faith and Politics.

“Winters has produced an engrossing examination of the enigmatic Sam Shepard in this first major (and unauthorized) biography. Drawing on widely scattered archival sources and dozens of interviews with Shepard’s family, friends and colleagues, he has deftly sorted out the authentic ore of fact from the farrago of legends, rumors and canards surrounding one of the greatest playwrights and actors of our time. Along the way Winters has shrewdly delineated Shepard’s relations with Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Wim Wenders, and Jessica Lange, the love of his life.”—Michael Lennon, author ofNorman Mailer: A Double Life

Kirkus Reviews
2017-02-06
A journalist who has devoted years to Shepard's life and works debuts with a comprehensive account of the life of the prolific playwright, poet, fiction writer, musician, and more.Although Winters, who has written for the Boston Globe and numerous other publications, tells us that he's not writing an extensive description and assessment of Shepard's work, he does just that. Readers who are not aficionados of Shepard's work will be surprised by his vast output and range. The story begins in 1964 in Greenwich Village, when Samuel Shepard Rogers (he later dropped the surname) was beginning to see his revolutionary works produced. Then Winters goes back to Shepard's birth in 1943 and marches steadily forward until the present. Using his unsurpassed knowledge of the various Shepard archives and the contents of his interviews of those involved in Shepard's life and career, Winters shows us connections between the playwright's life and works and provides details about his various relationships with women—including the rise and fall and mild rise again of his involvement with actress Jessica Lange. Shepard himself, however, did not participate in the publication. Throughout, the author emphasizes his subject's prolific output, including plays, film scripts, performances in films, and music, which he frequently has integrated with the texts of his plays. Winters also reveals the extent of Shepard's friendship with collaborator Joseph Chaikin and his work with Bob Dylan. We don't learn much about how Shepard works except that, early on, he preferred to work at night and remains computer-less. Winters is generally nonjudgmental, though he does disdain a few works and declares A Lie of the Mind (1985) as Shepard's greatest. Though not always gracefully written, the book is unquestionably well-informed and -researched. A thorough, admiring work that is nonetheless honest about what the author views as Shepard's late-career decline.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781619027084
Publisher:
Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
04/11/2017
Pages:
480
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

Meet the Author


John J. Winters is a veteran journalist, critic, and academic who has made Sam Shepard the focus of his scholarship. In addition to working for The Boston Globe and countless newspapers, Winters's work has appeared in Playboy, Salon, The Providence Journal, Art New England, the Providence Phoenix, Runner's World and Rhode Island Monthly. He is a regular contributor of reviews and commentary to Boston’s National Public Radio affiliate, WBUR. More at johnjwinters.com.