Friday, June 12, 2009

Great Dream of Heaven - Sam Shepard



Did I have room in my huge stack of TBR books to squeeze in one more? Nah. Probably not, but when I read Beth Fish's review of this one a few weeks ago, I couldn't resist. I don't have much experience with short stories, but this one seemed like a perfect one to start with. The tipping point with me was when I learned it was written by Sam Shepard. Yes, THAT Sam Shepard. You mean Dolly Parton's adorable husband in Steel Magnolias? The cute country vet that swept Diane Keaton off her feet in my fantasy movie Baby Boom? That would have been all the arm-twisting I needed. But what I didn't appreciate is that this man is an accomplished Pulitzer Prize winner and author of more than 45 plays and story collections. After reading this collection of short stories, now I understand that he is so much more than a handsome actor.
The book consists of 18 stories - some one page in length and others longer - that give us tiny snapshots of people's lives. Poignant, touching, disturbing, or just entertaining, the stories document a conversation, an event, a pivotal moment in an everyman's life. The common thread through all of them is the examination of the complicated and fragile interrelationships between fathers and sons, mother and daughter, man and wife, friends, and even between humans and their own selves.

Certain tales stuck with me in my dreams. In "Blinking Eye", a young woman is making a cross-country trip to deliver her mother's ashes to the family, and attempts to rescue a beautiful, wounded hawk. In "Living the Sign", a wing shack displays a sign that reads "Life is what's happening to you while you're making plans for something else", and a customer seeks out the individual that thoughtfully hung the sign. In "Great Dream of Heaven", two widowers and roommates take pleasure in their daily visit to a local Denny's to see the lovely waitress Faye, until one day one of the men dares to visit Faye on his own and destroys the delicate balance of their lives.

Shepard's prose is spare, but flexible with many voices and variations. He captures the essence of human interaction, and of Americana, and was a pleasure to read.

4.5 out of 5 stars

13 comments:

Molly said...

I read BethFish's review as well and was intrigued by this book. Now I know that I need to add it to the growing TBR pile.

I do not normally read short stories for pleasure (teach quite a few of the classics for school), but this sounds worth the read.

farmlanebooks said...

I saw BethFish's review too. I don't normally like short stories either, but I could be tempted by this one. I'll keep an eye out for it!

Susan said...

I haven't read any of Shepard's writings, but if they are anything like his plays and movies, they will be sure to make you think and/or squirm uncomfortably. He does have a different way of seeing things.

Question for Sandy: How in the world do you find the time to read as much as you do and post every day to your blog? Plus comment on others' blogs, plus go about your daily business? Do you ever sleep? :)

Sandy Nawrot said...

Molly - Sometimes I read reviews from various bloggers and just impulsively jump over to my library's website and order the books. Gets me in trouble!

Jackie - I am interested in reading more short stories, and I figured this was a good place to start. Short stories and graphic novels...gotta get to work on those!

Susan - My husband asks the same questions. I probably have a balance issue going on, but am hesitant to give it up! Makes you wonder how my kids eat and the house stays clean, huh?

Beth F said...

I knew you would love this! My husband is reading it now and I get to discuss the stories every night at dinner. I loved the collection so much (and I am *not* a short story fan), that I ordered his Motel Chronicles -- which I hope will be at my door today.

Iliana said...

I was doing so well reading more short stories earlier this year and have sort of fall off that habit. I haven't read any of his books but am adding this one to my radar! :)

Melissa - Shhh I'm Reading said...

I've been reading a lot more short stories lately and will have to find a copy of this one.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Beth - Well, you did a fine job convincing me to read this one, so I should probably just order the other one now as well!

Iliana - I'm not even a short-story kinda girl, and I loved this collection. Maybe I'm onto something!

Melissa - If you do, let me know how you like it!

Frances said...

I love Shepard's plays but did not know about this one so many thanks. Just another one to fit in this summer.

Literary Feline said...

I hadn't known the author was that Sam Shepard. :-) This does sound like a good one. And I love the cover.

Dar said...

I didn't know until I had read Beth's review either that it was that 'Sam Shepard'. I'm curious to give this one a read even though I don't normally like short stories.

Gavin said...

This one sounds wonderful! I knew Shepard was a playwrite and wrote screenplays but didn't know about the short stories. I'm adding it to my list.

Carrie K. said...

I have this on my wish list - I love Shepard's plays, but haven't read any of his short fiction.