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Day Out of Days: Stories

by: Sam Shepard

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Mystery And Manners' Honorary Southern Artist Sam Shepard’s new book Day Out of Days proves the award-winning playwright-actor still possesses his old literary fire. Shepard is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of more than 45 plays. He’s appeared in over 30 films, and received an Oscar as well as won 11 Obie Awards.

Some of this writer's favorite Shepard books rank as The Rolling Thunder Logbook, Seven Plays, Motel Chronicles, Cruising Paradise, Fool For Love, Simpatico and Hawk Moon. Day Out of Days contends as one of Shepard’s best. These stories were written in the last several years. Composed usually in transit—from out on the road or roadside somewhere—these highway stories (over 24 specific highways are mentioned) paint vivid landscapes of contemporary American life. Shepard’s stark style still cuts to the bone. It's no wonder why he's written with Bob DylanT-Bone Burnett and Wim Wenders.

Day Out of Days contains poems, over 100 stories and various dialogues. “Kitchen” opens as a detailed description of our narrator’s pulse of the house. “Haskell, Arkansas” begins a series of stories about a severed head a man finds by the side of the road. Decapitation runs as a thread through this book. An assassin who surgically removes the faces of his dead victims appears throughout Day Out of Days.

Shepard maintains in his trademark style in this book. Dialogue tales—straight playwright script—like “Thor’s Day”, “Reason”, “Livingston, Montana”, “Interview in Café Pascual”, “Boca Paila, Mexico”, “Land of the Living” and “Black Oath” adhere to Shepard’s sheer economy of words.

Throughout his books, the father/son struggle reappears, and there are a few here such as “Orange Grove In My Past”, “Descendancy” and “Lost Coin”. Shepard writes stories revolving around musicians such as Fats Domino, Thelonious Monk, Eric Dolphy, Hank Williams, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Richard and Ralph Stanley in this book. He’s always operated on the main artery of American music. He once lived with Charles Mingus’ son and dated Patti Smith. He was even the drummer for the Holy Modal Rounders…

Stories and ghosts of Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Hurricane Katrina, The Lakota, Casey Jones, Confederate soldiers, Kit Carson, Dostoyevsky, firefighters, Richard Hugo, Marlon Brando, horses, speed freaks, Robert Blake and old friends from the past lace these pages. In many of these stories, the fine line of fact and fiction blurs the identification of the narrator, but if you know Shepard’s work you know almost all of these stories are true. Even in the tales concerning wife and children, you can almost hear his wife Jessica saying, “Do you have a girlfriend?” just like the wife in one of these stories.

Shepard still retains the spirit of an old medicine man. This book counts as a timeless work from one of America’s most talented artists.

James Calemine


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