Donnerstag, 12. April 2018

We’ll Always Have Paris: My Time in Texas with Sam Shepard’s Notebooks / Madelaine Lucas In: LitHub April 12, 2018

In Sam Shepard’s notebooks there are lists of trees: cottonwood, dogwood, apricot, willow, polar, locust, crab apple, silver maple. There are guitar chords with Spanish lyrics, passages of prose that could be read as diary-entry confession or script, and unattributed quotations that might be lines picked-up from conversations overheard on the road or dialogue for a work-in-progress. In the back of one notebook, a photocopied review of Shepard’s 1983 play Fool for Love is folded up with an article about fly-fishing. Taped inside the dirt-red cover of another—a business card for Ray E. Ortiz “Horseshoeing” in La Cienega. Between these pages, there is no separation between what makes up art and what makes up life.
I viewed these papers in the archives of the Harry Ransom Center in Austin last summer, a week after Sam Shepard’s death that August at the age of 73. At the time, I was driving through the Southwest with my husband on our honeymoon—a road trip largely inspired by Shepard’s collaboration with German filmmaker Wim Wenders, Paris, Texas, that would take us, two Australian ex-pats, 5,000 miles across the country from Los Angeles, back to our newly adopted home of Brooklyn, New York.
As one of the foremost research facilities dedicated to arts and letters in the United States, the collection at the Harry Ransom Center is comprised of manuscripts, rare books and other literary curios, including Edgar Allen Poe’s writing desk and David Foster Wallace’s personal, annotated library. The Center also houses the papers, correspondences and notebooks of many influential writers of the 20th century, including several boxes dedicated to Shepard—the Illinois-born cowboy-mouthed fool-for-love who would become one of the most prolific playwrights of his generation.
Whenever I think of Sam Shepard—his work and influence—I think of the way Patti Smith described him in her memoir, Just Kids:

I remember passing shop windows with my mother [as a child] and asking why people just didn’t kick them in. She explained that there were unspoken rules of social behavior, and that’s the way we coexist as people. I felt instantly confined by the notion that we are born into a world where everything is mapped out by those before us… When I told [Sam Shepard] I sometimes had the impulse to put my foot through a window, he just said, “Kick it in, Patti Lee. I’ll bail you out.” With Sam I could be myself. He understood more than anyone how it felt to be trapped in one’s skin.
With a career spanning half a century, Shepard wrote over 50 plays, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for Buried Child. As an actor, he received an Oscar nomination and appeared in more than sixty films, from Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1979) to Hollywood features like The Notebook (2004). He wrote songs on the road with Bob Dylan and was written about by Joni Mitchell, while back on his Kentucky ranch he tended to horses and picked fruit. Shepard also published several collections of short prose, and two novels. His last work, Spy of the First Person, describes the active and vital mind of a man suffering from a debilitating illness that renders him increasingly physically dependent on those who care for him. It was written as Shepard himself was dealing with complications from Lou Gehrig’s disease, and was released posthumously, last December. 
To Smith, Shepard was a rebel and a permission-giver, unafraid to break things open to discover something new. “When you hit a wall—of your imagination—just kick it in,” he urged her when holed up at the Chelsea Hotel and working on the play Cowboy Mouth together in 1971, during their brief love affair. From this time, the two formed a friendship and creative dialogue that continued up until last August and perhaps even continues now, in the way we can sometimes feel ourselves to be in conversation with the loved ones we have lost—through memory, and through art, the only ways we have of collapsing time. ... [mehr]

Hunter Carson in Paris, Texas.

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