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Spy of the First Person

By: Sam Shepard

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Imprint: Knopf

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9780525521563

Other Formats:

Electronic | Trade Paperback | Audiobook Download

On Sale: | Pages: 96

  • About the Book
  • Reviews
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 makes us human—and an unbound celebration of family and life.
...an eloquent, if necessarily brief, valediction. At just 96 pages, its effect is one of atmosphere rather than narrative, an aching requiem sung in the shadow of extinction. It is also partly autobiographical.... Shepard's last novel is not meant to be a definitive statement; he has a career's worth of those. Still, it is difficult not to be moved by these sparks of beauty and belonging. They light up all the brighter for how quickly they go dark.
—Los Angeles Times
“Spy of the First Person” did not begin to fully hold my attention until its midpoint. Several things start to happen. The novel begins to overspill its tight borders. There is an increasing, slashing awareness of not merely one human but a world in distress.... Better, the novel builds toward a simple but expert and moving scene.... There are echoes of Beckett in this novel's abstemious style and existential echoes.
—New York Times
It's painful to read, and yet remarkable to think that Shepard was compelled to keep writing, and without self-pity. A feeling of vague paranoia can lurk in these sparse pages.... There's a subtle curiosity at work, too, the curiosity of a writer to the very end. Unsettling, yet brave.
—USA Today
"Spy of the First Person" is a short book, with short chapters � some of them just a few lines long, most less than two pages. The point of view continually switches, and so does the chronology: You are never quite sure what is now, what is past, who is speaking.... The book's tone is at once maddeningly elusive and precise... Death is filigreed throughout the book, but Shepard does not force his hand and avoids anything that could look like a definitive last statement, or a philosophy of life or art.
In “Spy of the First Person,” two narrative voices wind together in beguiling fashion.... “Spy of the First Person” returns to the uncanny experience evoked in all of Shepard's fiction of being both the observer and the observed. In the midst of that standoff, fragments of the past resurface. Shepard has always been a spare and oblique writer, creating a sense of dreamy discomfort by starving his prose of basic identifying details like years or proper names.
—Wall Street Journal
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