Sam Shepard's dual-voiced farewell

Sam Shepard, Sept. 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes) The difficulty of reckoning with Sam Shepard ’s artistic legacy is primarily a problem of cartography. Indeed, negotiating the terrain of such an uncommonly broad, richly contoured oeuvre is no easy feat for the would-be elegist. Perhaps best known as a playwright (he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for “Buried Child”), Shepard was also a gifted actor, musician, screenwriter, essayist, short story writer and novelist. Occupying a kind of permanent West, his spare and often surreal portraits dismantled the bankrupt mythologies propping up the American dream. In Shepard’s work, what is most wanted — family, home, identity — is most unmoored, prone to drift and distortion. Shepard, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in July, was working on a final book at the time of his death, writing drafts by hand until the complications of his neurodegenerative disease made such work impossible. He then dictated segments into a tape recorder, which his family would later transcribe. Longtime friend and ex-lover Patti Smith assisted him in editing the manuscript, the final review of which occurred just days before his death. The resulting novel, “Spy of the First […]

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