cover image The One Inside

The One Inside

Sam Shepard. Knopf, $25.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-451-49458-0

In the longest work of fiction to date from the Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright, an aged actor moves through his fragmented memories of his father, the young girl who loved him, and the vast American landscape that served as a backdrop to it all. Following a poignant foreword by Patti Smith, each successive chapter of the novel flits among times and forms: there are poetic reminiscences of the actor’s ex-wife, and terse all-dialogue conversations between him and the lover intending to blackmail him. Coloring those dynamics are flashbacks to the actor’s complicated relationship with Felicity, his father’s underage girlfriend, who also comes to take the actor’s virginity. Mixed amongst these grounding story lines are vivid scenes of his father’s death, drug fantasies, and vague meditations on sex and death. The last section of the book concerns Felicity’s disappearance and apparent suicide, an event that deepens and bonds every moment that precedes it. Though some of the writing feels like leftovers from discarded drafts of books and plays, much of the content remains striking and memorable, illustrative of what makes Shepard’s work so arresting on the screen and the page. (Feb.)