The Letters of Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark
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A decadeslong friendship between the writer and his former father-in-law, revealed in a collection of letters, notes and transcripts.

Only three years separate Dark and Shepard, and in this engaging correspondence, we see the evolution of their relationship. They were buddies earlier, and they remained close despite Shepard’s rise to celebrity as a playwright and actor. Oddly, neither seems to have thought about going online (computers are not mentioned), so—except for the transcriptions of taped conversations—the volume has the feel of an earlier age. Editor Hammett notes that he has not assembled a complete collection but has edited heavily, arranging the pieces to tell a narrative, excising what he deemed repetitive or excessively quotidian (though some of the latter remains). The correspondence from both parties is rich with allusions to the writers they admire—principally Kerouac and Beckett, though many others appear as well, including Melville, Lardner, C.S. Lewis, Saroyan, Chekhov and Dickey. They write occasionally about money (the lack thereof) and about writing. The title comes from a play they began working on together but never finished. (One transcript records an initial plotting session.) Health issues occur continually (Dark’s wife declines as the book progresses), as do comments about life and writing. In 2008, Shepard wrote: “I continue to write because basically that’s all I’ve found I can really do.” Shepard’s career ignited, he wrote more often about his travels, his film and stage projects, and his relationship with actress Jessica Lange. And Dark becomes more of a fan than a potential literary collaborator. By the end, they are discussing the very letters project that became the book.

A bright pathway directly into the hearts and minds of two compelling men.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-292-73582-8
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Univ. of Texas
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2013


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