The final work from the Pulitzer Prize–winning writer, actor, and musician, drawn from his transformative last days
In searing, beautiful prose, Sam Shepard’s extraordinary narrative leaps off the page with its immediacy and power. It tells in a brilliant braid of voices the story of an unnamed narrator who traces, before our rapt eyes, his memories of work, adventure, and travel as he undergoes medical tests and treatments for a condition that is rendering him more and more dependent on the loved ones who are caring for him. The narrator’s memories and preoccupations often echo those of our current moment—for here are stories of immigration and community, inclusion and exclusion, suspicion and trust. But at the book’s core, and his, is family—his relationships with those he loved, and with the natural world around him. Vivid, haunting, and deeply moving, Spy of the First Person takes us from the sculpted gardens of a renowned clinic in Arizona to the blue waters surrounding Alcatraz, from a New Mexico border town to a condemned building on New York City’s Avenue C. It is an unflinching expression of the vulnerabilities that make us human—and an unbound celebration of family and life.
This slim but potent volume, which playwright Shepard (The One Inside) finished shortly before his death in 2017, alternates two voices in a poignant, unsettling double monologue. One narrator is a man who spends most of his time sitting in a "rocking chair that looks like it was lifted from a Cracker Barrel" on the porch of a house in the Southwest, and who occasionally makes family outings to a local Mexican restaurant or to a prestigious medical clinic founded by two brothers from Minnesota. On the porch, he talks to himself, or to his son, recalling events they shared or didn't. Across the road, someone else observes him, trying to make sense of him. The observer watches the porch sitter eat cheese and crackers and notes dispassionately that "his hands and arms don't work much," while the sitter himself prefers to dwell in the past, since the present has little to offer. Elegant, unpretentious, funny, and touching without demanding sympathy, the book, edited with the help of Shepard's friend Patti Smith (Just Kids), gently escorts the reader out to the edge where life meets death.