I’m reading a wonderful book. Day Out of Days is a collection of stories by Sam Sherpard, published in 2010.
It is a difficult book to describe. What the stories have in common is they all illuminate the lives of people in transit. Many of the titles simply identify where the story takes place. But the stories are not about the places. They are about the people; why are they moving and how they feel about it; why are they leaving?
While correct in the truest meaning of the word, it might mis-set expectations that the collection is called “Stories”. Some of them are short narratives but many others are more sketches, snippets of dialog; impressionist glimpses of people’s lives. The experience of reading them is like passing a stranger on the street who is talking to someone else or thinking aloud. You only hear them for the brief time it takes to pass each other. And yet the stories are so atmospheric you feel the context as much as hear the words.
The individual stories are short; some only a few lines, or a paragraph. In 282 pages they number 133. The longest is about 14 pages; many are less than one page in length. I find I am still taking my time reading the book, however, because I often go back and re-read one or another of the stories. It is a wonderful read.
Of course one would expect nothing less. In his 69 years on the planet; writer-actor-director-musician Sam Shepard has made significant contributions to the performing arts. In the mid-late 1960’s he was in New York having his first success as a playwright. He was also performing music and was an integral part of the group of young artists centered around the Chelsea Hotel that included Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. That unique time was chronicled beautifully by Patti Smith in her 2010 memoir “Just Kids”.
He’s written 54 plays and has won every award available to a playwright including 11 Obies, a Tony and a Pulitzer Prize. He’s written or contributed to 7 screenplays including Zabriskie Point; Paris ,Texas; and the screen adaptation of his play Fool For Love for Robert Altman’s film.
In the 1970’s he traveled as a musician with Bob Dylan. As recently as 2007 her played banjo on Patti Smith’s recording of the Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit.
He is also an award-winning actor having appeared in more than 40 films including Days of Heaven; Resurrection; Frances, The Right Stuff, and Steel Magnolias. He will soon be seen the the film adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize winning play August; Osage Country.