Random Thoughts

Sam Shepard stories and tales

... these stories and tales that sing

by Ed Boyd

I want to tell our readers about Sam Shepard who I have grown to admire immensely. This is mainly from two books of his, “Great Dream of Heaven: stories”, that I own, and “Cruising Paradise: tales”, that I got from the library. The first book of stories I sort of uncovered from one of my books that I had bought before but, apparently, I had never read. Or, if I had read it, it was before my stroke in 2003 before my memory had been corrupted.

This book was so compelling I right away went to the library to find something else of his. His Tales are even more captivating.

Sam Shepard is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of more than forty-five plays. As an actor he has appeared more than twenty-five films and received an Oscar nomination in 1984 for his performance in The Right Stuff. You may have seen this film, it was so popular.

Shepard has a long list of credits but here I want to show his fluency as a writer. I found myself blown away by how he fashions his sentences. Here are samples of lines from, “Great Dream of Heaven" stories.

The Remedy Man

“E.V. was a springy little man in his late fifties with an exaggerated limp from having his kneecap crushed in a shoeing accident when he was about my age; about fourteen. He climbed the hill in steady jerks, his gray felt hat pointing straight down at the ground and bobbing with his gait.” You can see and feel this little man and you know who is telling the story.

Living the Sign  

“There’s a little handmade cardboard sign hanging over the steaming chicken wings that reads: ‘LIFE IS WHAT’S HAPPENING TO YOU WHILE YOUR MAKING PLANS FOR SOMETHING ELSE.’ The splattered sign twirls slowly under the rays of the orange warming lamps. Apocalypse background music moans from hidden speakers.” This begins the story and the writer will make something of this.

Great Dream of Heaven

“A prideful thing had slowly grown between the two old men about who could rise the earliest in the morning…It had just evolved over the years out of the endless days and nights together. That was unmistakable. Sometimes he felt it in his feet-a warmth ascending slowly up the calves and behind his knees. Sometimes he felt it in his chest and arms-and one electric morning he felt in directly on the top of his head. His whole head lit up. He remembered that. It lit up much the same as the fluorescent tube above the bathroom sink-a bright glow that flooded his skull, washed down onto his neck and backbone, and then seemed to switch on a light through his entire body.” This has a surprising ending that I will leave to you.

Here are a few of Shepard’s Tales to whet your taste.

The Self-Made Man

“For him, it began in a moment of shattering stillness. Something separated and fell away. Instinctively his heart understood this ‘something’ was the long-cherished notion of himself as a distinct individual.”

7/16/94 (Del Rio, Texas)

What do you think of that?


“She was a tall Scandinavian type from the Iron Range country of Minnesota, who used to sit hunched over the bar to make her frame look smaller. She was always surrounded with short, dark-haired women wearing nose rings and capes and calling themselves poets. Women who were so opposite to her in every aspect that they appeared to be like a pack of dogs surrounding a young deer.”

11/6/92 (Scottsville, Virginia) A strange opening that makes you want to read on.        

See You in My Dreams

“The wind was still bashing the windows, and little clusters of rain would slap at the glass, then subside. You could smell the accumulation of past fires though the moisture in the chimney. Fires long before we moved there.” 3/89
{Los Angeles) Doesn’t this just take your breath away?

Now that you have a chance to see and feel Shepard’s writing, I am sure you’ll leap to your library.

October 4, 2013

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