“The Spy in Me”: Farewell, Uncle Sam (Shepard)

He was our uncle from America. Unforgettable as a silent owner, unhappy lover of Brooke Adams in the Harvests of the Sky”, like a fighter pilot capable of transforming the supersonic test in “The stuff of heroes” by Philip Kaufman. Samuel Shepard Rogers III had also written the screenplay for “Paris, Texas”, signed plays (Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for “The Buried Child”), worked with Antonioni (“Zabriskie point”, film to be reassessed) and Robert Altman, and hit the headlines with Jessica Lange, who was his companion for almost thirty years.

How to live with Shepard? The handsome guy, the diamond not worked? And how to read all these words scribbled in pencil in a tired notebook, torn from inner silence, from the nights we imagine spent smoking and drinking, to the point of having nothing more to say? While suffering from an incurable disease, Shepard worked hard on this last text, and you can feel the rarefaction at work. Short moments of prose where silhouettes come and go (the author or his double or the double of his double, it doesn’t matter). This guy, next to a screen door, whom the narrator observes on the sly. Lots of birds. “The sound of jays, which always reminds me of the Rockies and the heights. » Cinema memories too: Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson. Flies, dogs, gang members “in low-slung purple Mercury”, rattlesnakes, and he facing this audience: a “Lone Ranger, a masked bandit”.

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“A loner who finds it difficult to be alone”

In the end, he couldn’t write anymore, and his girlfriend Patti Smith helped him get through the book. She recounted the scene in an introduction to another text by Shepard, reissued in the Pavillons Poche collection (“What is within”):

“He is a loner who finds it difficult to be alone, always confronted with the incubus, the lapping of nocturnal waters, the nausea of ​​endless nights. There are moments of uncanny prescience as he senses fragmentation to come, as he stoically pushes his way through the debris. He will simply continue to live until he dies. »

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We have rarely spoken better of this great fragile lion jig. Sam Shepard was handsome, clumsy, clumsy except on horseback, but what mattered most to him was driving his truck through the mountain, along the rugged coast, “see through the air”. Farewell cowboy. Take care of yourself in the desert.

“Only the untamed”, the film that Kirk Douglas considered his bestThe spy inside me by Sam Shepard, translated from English (United States) by Bernard Cohen, Robert Laffont, 130 p., 14.90 euros.

Published in “L’OBS” of June 23, 2022.

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“The Spy in Me”: Farewell, Uncle Sam (Shepard)