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Day out of Days: Stories by Sam Shepard
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Day out of Days: Stories

by Sam Shepard

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http://msarki.tumblr.com/post/103882147253/day-out-of-days-by-sam-shepard

It is unlikely that the evolution of Sam Shepard as an accomplished writer of short fiction comes as any great surprise to those of us who read him. Each book throughout the course of his life ages right along beside him. By 2010 his voice has become wizened and mature, and with it he acknowledges his own frailties as a human being in his attempts at getting along in the world and with others. His personal relationships, though long, are somewhat disruptive and not without a revolving wheel of baggage that certainly seems the cause of all his repeating issues. But Sam is such a comfort for me to read. I can relate to almost all he has to write about, and even his wildest imaginations on the page seem to carry me places I have always been willing and perhaps subconsciously intending to go.

It is possible that Sam Shepard will have much more to say as he continues to practice his craft by his doing it almost constantly. Unlike myself, who manages to find writing time in longish spurts when I block out the time to commit myself to a serious attempt at forging something of consequence, Sam takes his notebook along with him wherever he goes and jots down what he sees and thinks about things, it seems, relentlessly. He appears to never rest from this literary labor. I am so envious. I wish I were a different sort of man who might conduct this same practice and discipline in my own life. But then, that would presume I had something to say of note and matter. I am afraid I am more of a listener who then enjoys reporting on things he has learned from mistakes he and others have made. I am not good at making things up from scratch, nor do I think Sam is either. But thank goodness for his notebook and journals.

After viewing the documentary Shepard and Dark and then reading their selected letters to each other I like to think I have come to know these two guys intimately. When I came upon the story early in this collection titled San Juan Bautista (Highway 90 West) I immediately already knew the three characters involved in the tale. Sam Shepard, Johnny Dark, and Dennis Ludlow had all been previously introduced to me in other writings I have read. The story was so much fun as I could see and hear Sam and Johnny throughout. Of course a few of the earlier stories in this collection were in their way preparing me for this more personal take on friendship and aging. Grief, sadness, and despair never take a back seat in any of these short tales. A person in his own state and age for reflecting back on a life and what it has meant would be best served by being prepared, well-rested, and warmly fed before taking on the reading of these texts. The absolute certainty of embarking on a long haul with Shepard is not for the feint of heart, nor somebody having weak knees.

One of the most memorable shorts came nearer to the end. It was a more longish piece detailing a trip the family made to their favorite winter destination. Land of the Living portends the trouble and eventual breakup between partners and parents. It was all too real, and still, I miss it. Having finished reading this book I feel a bit out of sorts, as my Sam Shepard fest has come too near to its close. But I am not sure I would have appreciated the stories of Sam Shepard as much had I not first seen the film and read the letters between Johnny and Sam. Their back story is more important than anything I have read, and with some luck, it just might continue.
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  MSarki | Jan 24, 2015 |
Shepard is no Barthelme. Some of his recurrent images resonate with me but his attempts to come off as casual and everymanish just feel like lazy writing. What's up with obsession with mutilated heads? ( )
  librarianbryan | Apr 20, 2012 |
This is exactly the kind of collection that one would hope to stumble across while rummaging through Sam Shepard's cupboards. There would be a kind of voyeuristic magic in that scenario. Unfortunately, the brevity of this otherwise engaging melange of miscellany renders the suggested retail price a bit excessive. An enterprising reader can get through the whole book in a single day; there's a lot of blank space on the pages. In this sense, it has more in common with a book of short poems... except without the impacted depth of same. Even so, it is both charming and quintessentially Shepard. ( )
  Narboink | Jun 10, 2011 |
Lots of great one- and two-page stories in this collection. Vivid scenes of life along the highways of America and Mexcico. Little slices of life (and death). Some of the best stories are pure dialogue. One-act plays, in effect. Others are more like random memories than stories. There are some longer, more traditional pieces as well. A smattering of poems, too. It's all good. ( )
  AlRiske | Sep 7, 2010 |
Day Out of Days

I felt a sense of guilt as I started reading this collection of short stories by Sam Shepard. It seemed 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. ( )
  BlackSheepDances | Mar 1, 2010 |
Showing 5 of 5
No writer wants to be seen trying -- Shepard's generation, in particular, has prized a seeming effortlessness -- but you can hear the gears grinding in his writing, especially in these stories, and it's part of their deep, abiding appeal. Even better, it's part of their usefulness.
 
Using fanciful anecdotes, lyric riffs, seemingly lifelike reminiscences and quotes from our nation’s founding thinkers, [Shepard] drills down through the strata of our history into the bedrock of American myth.
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307265404, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:18 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In a series of tales set mainly in the West, a man is trapped inside a restaurant where an endless loop of Shania Twain songs is playing, an actor recounts his teenage debaucheries with an old friend, and a squabbling family remains oblivious to their Yucatan vacation.… (more)

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