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Great Dream of Heaven: Stories by [Shepard, Sam]
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Great Dream of Heaven: Stories Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In his second collection of short fiction, Great Dream of Heaven, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Sam Shepard offers a resonant examination of interpersonal crisis and revelation in 18 lean tales. At times humorous, tense, and tragic, these stories often focus on the elusive search for connection and understanding, visiting characters at key moments of consciousness or detachment. Seized by compulsion or repression, many in this work disengage from life by assuming familiar roles or patterns. In "The Stout of Heart," a man obsessed with horse breeding locks himself in his room annually to study catalogues, shutting out his family, while in "An Unfair Question," another man's frustration with his role as husband and father surfaces when he engages a party guest in friendly conversation and ends up holding her at gunpoint. These stories achieve an understated impact due in part to Shepard's knack for acute dialogue and descriptions that reveal his dramatist's eye for sparse but evocative detail. In "Living the Sign," a handmade sign in a fast food restaurant inspires a man to self-awareness, though he finds that its teenage creator is only dimly aware of its significance. "The Remedy Man," the collection's first and strongest story, tells of a guarded boy who comes to realize his potential by helping E.V., the road-worn title character (a fixer of bad horses), break a stallion. "Horse is just like a human being," E.V. tells him. "He's just gotta know his limits. Once he finds that out he's a happy camper." Offering many such moments of distilled wisdom, the stories in Great Dream of Heaven are no less brief but memorable encounters. --Ross Doll

From Publishers Weekly

"E.V. made no bones about it; he was not a horse whisperer by any stretch," writes Shepard (Cruising Paradise, etc.) in the first of 18 brief stories that make up his new collection. "He could fix bad horses, and when he fixed them they stayed fixed." This terse, weather-beaten "remedy man" turns out to be so observant that he gives a bullied boy a new sense of the truly vast scale of life and of his own possibilities. Some of the tales explore how characters fail to connect with any greater vision. Ambushed by sex, buried in habit or gripped by a desperation they didn't know they possessed, they become like blind forces of nature, some of them terrifying and heartbreaking. At his best, Shepard shows us how in brief, bright moments people wake up from the suck and drag of the distractions that cloud their lives. In "Living the Sign" a young fast-food worker commemorates his moment of lucidity by posting a sign that reads, "`Life is what's happening to you while you're making plans for something else.'" Shepard shows that consciousness calls out to us: eager to track down the employee who made the sign, a patron asks if anyone there seems "particularly auspicious? Particularly present and attentive?" In classic Shepard style, he also shows in the title story how people can fall apart as quickly and with just as much force as they come together. Like "The Remedy Man" himself, these sketches are simple but deeply intuitive and true.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 302 KB
  • Print Length: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (December 18, 2007)
  • Publication Date: December 18, 2007
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000XUAD54
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #387,410 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joseph J. Hanssen on April 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Shepard, the well-known playwright and actor, has written eighteen brief stories that are filled with unforgettable images. They deal with the unexpected reactions of human nature, especially sex and the yearnings for things that no longer exist. Shepard is at his best with these stories as he clearly and effortless describes the sorrows, joys, and fallibility of everyday life.

I enjoyed all of Shepard�s stories in his second collection of fiction. It would be hard to choose any one favorite, but �Blinking Eye� is one I will never forget. It will leave an unforgettable image on your mind. It is about a young girl driving cross-country bearing an urn containing her mother�s ashes when she encounters an injured hawk on the side of the road. She decides to take the injured hawk to a veterinarian for help. What happens after she places the hawk in her car will definitely leave a vivid image in your mind forever.
Shepard�s gift of writing is effortless to read for he brings all of his stories to life in a clear, concise, and beautifully detailed matter. This is a book not to be missed!!
Joe Hanssen
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Format: Paperback
Fans of playwright Sam Shepard will enjoy this collection of short pieces, many of them not more than monologues or brief sketches of dialogue. Sometimes the blanks are filled in and we get an actual short story, as in the title story, about two elderly men who compete for the attention of a waitress at Denny's. Also, "An Unfair Question," in which an over-inquisitive party guest interested in guns is taken to the basement by her host, who becomes dangerously impatient with her.

Others tend toward a Mamet-like fascination with the way people talk who have little to say and don't listen to each other. In "Living the Sign," a fast-food customer tries unsuccessfuly to strike up a conversation with the young employees about a thoughtful message hung over the chicken wings. A father and his two school-age children, in "Berlin Wall Piece," struggles without much success - or gratitude - to help his son with a homework assignment. Two telephone conversations comprise the extent of "Coalinga 1/2 Way," in which one person attempts vainly to keep the other person from walking out of a relationship. Four voice mail messages comprise another, as a shady character reports to a client on the fate of an injured race horse in "Tinnitus."

Two personal favorites are "The Remedy Man," about a man who breaks a willful horse, as well as the tyrannical hold of a father over his son, and the monologue "The Company's Interest," in which a lone night-shift filling station attendant is confronted by two long haired, tatooed and much overweight customers.

Mostly set in the West, many in California, this collection of stories shows flashes of mercurial creative intelligence sending off sparks of story fragments - characters, situations, dialogue, each elusive and elliptical, verbal fireworks against a night sky, your imagination filled with evocative afterimages. BTW, the cover photo is by Jessica Lange.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Life is what's happening to you while you're making plans for something else." That one sentence from "Living the Sign", sums up this entire collection of simple stories that really hit the nail on the head. The story itself is a metaphor for the collection: The sentence is posted on a sign in a fast food joint by one of its employees, and the sign prompts one customer to begin a mini journey of discovery to find the one prescient individual among the glassy-eyed help behind the counter.

In "The Remedy Man" we get a simple take on the proverbial Horse Whisperer (though E.V., the title character wouldn't classify himself as such - hence the title - he fixes things). But, is this the story of E.V. fixing a horse, or that of him helping a young boy find his own strength and way under the thumb of his controlling father?

The characters in these stories, whether a man unable to grasp his role as father and husband who takes another partygoer hostage at gun point or so obsessed with horse breeding that he locks himself away from his family annually to study catalogs, are either at moments of absolute clarity or complete detachment from life. And, Shepard's sharp, concise dialog and writing snaps right to the point every time.

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A Guide to my Book Rating System:

1 star = The wood pulp would have been better utilized as toilet paper.
2 stars = Don't bother, clean your bathroom instead.
3 stars = Wasn't a waste of time, but it was time wasted.
4 stars = Good book, but not life altering.
5 stars = This book changed my world in at least some small way.
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Format: Paperback
Sam Shepard, a world-renowned playwright, is also an excellent short story author. His collection, Great Dream of Heaven, is innovative, refreshing, fast moving, and brilliant. I found myself reading some of the stories out loud to my friends and family. Great Dream of Heaven is a must read.
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Format: Paperback
There's not quite enough humour in these plays-in-embryo for my liking. Only the two actual dialogues (one with extensive Shaw-style stage notes) and the splendid An Unfair Question have the authentic Shepardian frisson
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By A Customer on September 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Shepard has thrown away everything not absolutely necessary to get at the core of what matters.
Each story in this slim volume gets to the center of a facet of life and illuminates it.
Though every tale is stripped to essentials each is true to life.
Perfect reading for a Sunday afternoon.
Highly recommended.
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