ON THE RECORD by Martin Shepard


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A set of age pensées—complete with a CD arranging them to music—covering politics, music and living fully, from polymath publisher Shepard (The Reluctant Exhibitionist, 1994, etc.).

“What makes you think anyone would be interested in your opinions?” asks a friend of Shepard’s, and that’s a question that ought to be posed to any essayist. But there are a lot of things Shepard would like to get off his chest, and it’s rare that the unburdening doesn’t produce food for thought. Intimate, unrehearsed—Shepard recommends that readers take notice, asking them whether they’ve overstayed the interest and joy of their work, whether serenity—the ultimate prize of life, the Buddha state of mind—has gone begging? Shepard is here to tell them to take a risk, that money is no compensation for boredom, that one ought to pursue what’s personally meaningful, checking ego at the door, giving self-consciousness a holiday, taking aim at exploration and discovery despite all the inevitable missed notes. He is a student of his own medicine: he has run an elevator and squired a UPS truck; been defrocked as a psychoanalyst; experimented with drugs to unmoor his conventional thinking (and also lost a son to heroin). Shepard is a man of progressive politics, easily picking apart the war on drugs and the fatuous ravings of the Bush administration. As a partisan of compassionate, enlightened governing, he couldn’t have a better target than the war in Iraq and the flummery of the “Clean Skies,” “Job Creation” and “Save Our Forests” bills. He is wary of words, since so rarely can they get at the thrum of the matter; yet they can also be like a burr in the boot, irritating but demanding attention.

Shepard’s mental energy is something to behold. He suggests more than once that “Those who know don’t talk / Those who talk don’t know.” His words have an import worth considering.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2005
ISBN: 1-57962-117-1
Page count: 142pp
Publisher: Permanent Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2005