Sam Shepard: A Life

Sam Shepard: A Life

by John J. Winters


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Sam Shepard: A Life by John J. Winters

"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." —Kelly Horan, WBUR radio

With more than fifty-five plays to his credit—including the 1979 Pulitzer Prize–winning Buried Child—an Oscar nod for his portrayal of Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff, and an onscreen persona that’s been aptly summed up as “Gary Cooper in denim,” Sam Shepard’s impact on American theater and film ranks with the greatest playwrights and actors of the past half-century.

Despite these accomplishments and more—six collections of prose, songwriting with Bob Dylan, filmmaking 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, Winters gets to the heart of the enigma that is Sam Shepard, presenting a compelling and comprehensive account of his life and work.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781619027084
Publisher: Counterpoint Press
Publication date: 04/11/2017
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 1,210,959
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.80(d)

About 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

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Discovery 3

Beginnings 8

The Dark Muse/Father 14

The Rock/Mother 23

Go West 27

On the Road 42

Arriving 54

Genesis 68

"Generally Acknowledged Genius" 78

Musical Interlude 94

New Territory 99

Early Film Work (1968-1970) 109

Dazed and Confused (1968 and 1969) 118

New Directions 125

Patti 132

Mad Dogs, Splits, and More (1971 continued) 139

Gurdjieff 146

London 153

Mill Valley Days 171

Dylan 179

Heavenward (1976) 191

Family Matters 200

You Can't Go Home Again 215

True Brothers 224

"Stuff" 240

Jessica: The Beginning 244

Fools for Love 253

"Paris" 260

"Between Two Deaths" 267

Between Two Families 277

"Dancing Around the Grave?" 288

"Action!" 293

War Story 299

Take Two 306

Losing Game 312

At Last, Paradise 318

"Blue" Days 327

"Late" Show 333

"Hell" 337

A Late Trilogy 347

Break 351

Stumbling 360

The Road Ahead 364

Acknowledgments 369

Endnotes 373

Index 419

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