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Book Talk: A Tale of Two Shepards

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Before you stroll the streets on First Fridays in downtown Bend, check out this monthly review (or in this case, reviews plural) featuring reading recommendations courtesy of the Source and Dudley's Bookshop Café. Then head down to the shop for a discount on the books!

"The One Inside" by Sam Shepard

"Vicious cold again. Blue snow biting at the windowsills: glowing in what's left of the full moon. He throws the blankets back with a bullfighter's flourish and swings both bony knees out into the raw air." That you're in the hands of a true wordsmith is obvious from the start.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and actor Sam Shepard, with his first piece of long fiction, tells a semi-autobiographical tale of an aging actor searching for solace after a breakup from a longtime companion. Through a series of vignettes, it's occasionally non-linear, sometimes hallucinatory, and often avoids resolution. But my god, the prose. If you've seen any of his plays, you'll be right at home in Shepard's mythic, post-modern Southwest.

"The World to Come" by Jim Shepard

I have no hesitations in saying that Jim Shepard is both the best short story writer you've never read and the greatest living practitioner of the craft. His unique mastery of meticulously researched historical fiction gives us characters as diverse as ancient Minoans (and an entire civilization destroyed in 2.5 pages), an explorer on the 1845 Franklin Expedition and a WWII submariner longing for a girl back home. Shepard's true gift is creating in us a sense of empathy for these characters as timeless as the worlds they inhabit.


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