Sam Shepard’s dual-voiced farewell

La-1513809818-ae54whwe0d-snap-imageDustin Illingworth at the LA Times:

Shepard, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in July, was working on a final book at the time of his death, writing drafts by hand until the complications of his neurodegenerative disease made such work impossible. He then dictated segments into a tape recorder, which his family would later transcribe. Longtime friend and ex-lover Patti Smith assisted him in editing the manuscript, the final review of which occurred just days before his death.

The resulting novel, “Spy of the First Person,” is an eloquent, if necessarily brief, valediction. At just 96 pages, its effect is one of atmosphere rather than narrative, an aching requiem sung in the shadow of extinction. It is also partly autobiographical. Like Shepard, the narrator is an old man dying of a debilitating illness. His flickering consciousness ranges over great temporal distance, blending present-day observations with fragments from a disintegrating past. Across the street, the eponymous spy watches him through binoculars, obsessing over the mysterious stoic with whom he feels a curious kinship: “I can’t help feeling a similarity between him and me. I don’t know what it is. Sometimes it feels like we’re the same person.” The short dispatches that serve as chapters leap between these two voices, at times attaining an almost Beckettian quality, the lean poetry of utterance as it scrapes against the void.

more here.