Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Unconventional, elusive, moody story by Sam Shepard
Interesting and unusual Sam Shepard story, Tiny Man, in current New Yorker - we know Shepard can write, and act, and here he's showing his chops as a fiction writer as well in a first-person narrative told from later-life perspective about a preteen boy in the far West living w/ his taciturn and possibly alcoholic father. The story concerns his father's sexual relationship with a teenage girl: in one scene (the story is broken into scenes, each with a subtitle - but don't mistake this for a drama manque) the boy witnesses as his father has aggressive sex with the girl (Felicity) and she screams so loud that the landlady - they're in a boarding house - checks to see if someone's being killed. In a later scene, the boy leaves the boarding house, disturbed by and confused about his father's sexuality, and when he returns his father's being arrested and screamed at by a lady in a long pink coat (he later surmises she was Felicity's mother and his father was arrested for statutory rape). Following the arrest, they relocate to a remote Western town where his father works in feedlot; Felicity, somehow, continues to visit - the father is never home when she shows up, and eventually the boy has sex with her. This leads him to deep confusion about her, about his father, about their love and rivalry, and about his own dawning sexual drives. Interspersed with these knife-edged chapters narrated w/ vivid yet detached realism are scenes of what we learn are the boy's - now the adult's - dreams and fantasies about his father, whom he envisions as a doll-sized corpse wrapped in Saran and toyed with the a group of 4 Mafiosi; make of this symbolism what you will (Shepard gives us no guidance on that). As noted, it's a strange story that feels confessional (which it may not be at all) in an unconventional narrative style, elusive yet moody, easy to read, hard to fully comprehend, as with most great art.