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Spy of the First Person by Sam Shepard

Spy of the First Person

Spy of the First Person by Sam Shepard
Dec 05, 2017 | 96 Pages
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    Dec 05, 2017 | 96 Pages

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    Dec 05, 2017 | 96 Pages

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“Moving. . . . Sly and revealing. . . . This novel’s themes are echt Shepard: fathers and sons; shifting identities and competing versions of reality; a sense that there are watchers and there are watchees in this world of dusty gravitas. . . . You can tell you are moving into the realm of myth when you are holding a slender novel like this one that has large type and ample margins, to give the words room to reverberate. . . . There are echoes of Beckett in this novel’s abstemious style and existential echoes.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Beautiful . . . Cryptic, almost hallucinatory. . . . Remarkable. . . . There’s a subtle curiosity at work, too, the curiosity of a writer to the very end. Unsettling, yet brave.”
—Jocelyn McClurg, USA Today
“Haunting. . . . A testament-like fever dream of autofiction.”
—Elisabeth Vincentelli, Newsday

“Sam Shepard’s Spy of the First Person is a devastating work that is also full of life and wonder. From its heartbreaking dedication to him by his children to its last longing and truthful pages, it is an intimate masterwork.”
—Michael Ondaatje, Booker Prize–winning author of The English Patient 

“In Spy of the First Person, two narrative voices wind together in beguiling fashion. . . . Spy of the First Person returns to the uncanny experience evoked in all of Shepard’s fiction of being both the observer and the observed. . . . Shepard has always been a spare and oblique writer, creating a sense of dreamy discomfort. . . . The sketches jump to northern California, the Alcatraz prison, a doctor’s office in Arizona and even the squats of the Lower East Side in the 1970s. But as always, the itinerancy masks a profound feeling of imprisonment, as the scenes inevitably circle back to the old man on the porch, who has been rendered so immobile that he has to ask for help to scratch an itch on his face. Yet that appeal for help marks a small but significant change. Shepard’s wanderers have usually been on unaccompanied journeys with no departure or destination, only an ever-repeating present instant. But Spy of the First Person ends with a scene of family solidarity. The old man watches himself being pushed in a wheelchair to a crowded Mexican restaurant. . . . ‘The thing I remember most,’ he thinks, ‘is being more or less helpless and the strength of my sons.’ At last he has no choice but to accept the company of others as he travels through the great wide American somewhere.”
—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
Spy of the First Person captivates in its distillation of many of Shepard’s enduring themes—the death of America’s frontier, identity and loneliness. . . . Shepard illuminates loneliness beautifully in this slight but rich and moving final work. In the final lines the old man sees ‘the moon getting bigger and brighter . . . two sons and their father, everyone trailing behind.’ Shepard’s valedictory message is one of hope.”
—Alasdair Lees, The Independent (London)
“Spare but not slight, surreal yet stoic, an intriguing and moving glimpse into what falls away and what still matters at the end. . . . Shepard evokes the sense of mystery and the exploration of the myth of the American West that permeated so much of his work. . . . With Spy of the First Person, Shepard exited head up.”
—Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times

“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. . . . Offers acid commentary on episodes in American history, and revels in the resonance of words. . . . A gorgeously courageous and sagacious coda to Shepard’s innovative and soulful body of work.”
—Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review) 

“A sharply observed, slender novel set in familiar Shepard territory: a dusty, windblown West of limitless horizons and limited means of escape. . . . Offers arresting portent. . . . 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 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.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred)

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