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Sam Shepard

A Life

List Price: $28.00

April 11, 2017 | Hardcover | 6 x 9, 480 | ISBN 9781619027084
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“John Winters offers a master class in literary sleuthing, untangling the many lives and unearthing the origin story of America’s foremost Renaissance man of letters, Sam Shepard.” —Kelly Horan, WBUR radio

With more than 55 plays to his credit, including the 1979 Pulitzer Prize-winning Buried Child, Sam Shepard has an impact on American theater that ranks with the greatest playwrights of the past half-century. Critics have enthused that he “forged a whole new kind of American play,” while younger playwrights venerate him—Suzan Lori Parks, herself a Pulitzer winner, calls Shepard her “gorgeous north star.”

As an actor who’s appeared in more than 50 feature films, Shepard possesses an onscreen persona that’s been aptly summed up as “Gary Cooper in denim.” He earned an Oscar nod for his portrayal of Chuck Yeager in the 1983 film The Right Stuff, and his screenplay for Paris, Texas helped that now classic film sweep the top prizes at the Cannes Film Festival.

Despite these accomplishments and more—five collections of prose, writing songs with Bob Dylan, making films with Robert Frank and Michelangelo Antonioni, as well as romantic relationships with rocker Patti Smith and actress Jessica Lange—Shepard seems anything but satisfied. Sam Shepard: A Life details his lifelong bouts of insecurity and anxiety, and delves deeply into his relationship with his alcoholic father and his own battle with the bottle. Also examined for the first time in depth are Shepard’s tumultuous relationship with Lange, and his decades-long adherence to the teachings of Russian spiritualist G.I. Gurdjieff.

Throughout this new biography, John J. Winters gets to the heart of the enigma that is Sam Shepard, presenting an honest and comprehensive account of his life and work.

JOHN J. WINTERS is a veteran journalist, a critic, and academic who has made Sam Shepard the focus of his scholarship. In addition to working for The Boston Globe and countless newspapers, Winters’s work has appeared in Playboy, Salon, The Providence Journal, Art New England, the Providence Phoenix, Runner’s World and Rhode Island Monthly. He is a regular contributor of reviews and commentary to Boston’s National Public Radio affiliate, WBUR. More at johnjwinters.com

Praise

“First-time biographer Winters, a journalist and critic, meticulously presents the facts of Shepard’s complex life along with incisive descriptions and analyses of diverse productions of Shepard’s demanding and innovative plays…. Ultimately, Winters portrays Shepard as a magnetic, enigmatic, and multitalented artist drawing on a deep well of loneliness and self-questioning, keen attunement to the zeitgeist, and penetrating insight into human nature.” —Booklist, Starred Review

“[An] excellent biography . . . Mr. Winters is especially good on the backstage of one of Mr. Shepard’s most frequently revived works, True West . . . Mr. Winters has an interesting story to tell, and he recounts it ably, bringing us close to a figure who, he admits, avoids intimacy.” ―The Wall Street Journal

“[A] new, thoroughly researched biography . . . Winters does indeed capture a personality more anxious and self-doubting than previous biographers have grasped.” ―The Washington Post

“[A] literary fact-finding mission…”―Playbill

“Highly recommended to theater and movie lovers.”―Library Journal

“A journalist who has devoted years to Shepard’s life and works debuts with a comprehensive account of the life of the prolific playwright, poet, fiction writer, musician, and more… [T]he book is unquestionably well-informed and -researched. A thorough, admiring work that is nonetheless honest about what the author views as Shepard’s late-career decline.”―Kirkus

“Impeccably researched and beautifully written, author John Winters gives us an unflinching, deep dive into the psyche, imagination and soul of Sam Shepard. Packed with exclusive new details of Shepard’s amazing and intriguing life, it’s essential reading for fans of this enigmatic playwright, minstrel and actor.” ―Dave Wedge, co-author of Boston Strong: A City’s Triumph Over Tragedy and Challenge: The Story of Pete Frates and the Ice Bucket Challenge

“John Winters offers a master class in literary sleuthing, untangling the many lives and unearthing the origin story of America’s foremost Renaissance man of letters, Sam Shepard. One part literary detective story, one part un-put-downable page-turner, Sam Shepard: A Life will serve as the definitive account of one of the 20th century’s most enigmatic, beguiling and beloved figures of the stage, screen and page.” ―Kelly Horan, WBUR radio and co-author of Devotion and Defiance: My Journey in Love, Faith and Politics.

“Winters has produced an engrossing examination of the enigmatic Sam Shepard in this first major (and unauthorized) biography. Drawing on widely scattered archival sources and dozens of interviews with Shepard’s family, friends and colleagues, he has deftly sorted out the authentic ore of fact from the farrago of legends, rumors and canards surrounding one of the greatest playwrights and actors of our time. Along the way Winters has shrewdly delineated Shepard’s relations with Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Wim Wenders, and Jessica Lange, the love of his life.” ―Michael Lennon, author of Norman Mailer: A Double Life

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