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Book Review: Great Dreams of Heaven: Stories
by Sam Shepard

By Antoine du Rocher

NEW YORK, 7 December 2002Great Dreams of Heaven is the second collection of short stories by Sam Shepard.

The Pulitzer Prize playwright and actor has a fine ear and manifestly enjoys evoking the white, rural working-class of the American Midwest where men are "shit-faced drunk" and "off runnin' pussy," and eat tuna melt among other regional specialties.

Once past the entertainment, however, one becomes aware of the emotional desolation and vulnerability of Shepard's characters. In fact, their geographical isolation is often a metaphor for an opressive, emotional isolation, where obsession, secretiveness, sex and a peculiar mean-spiritedness sometimes take root amidst already staggering cultural ignorance.

Moreover, there is an existential creepiness that haunts several of these short tales, in contrast to livelier, albeit tough genre scenes that sometimes carry an unambiguous message of Protestant morality, spirituality or, in one tale, sexual awakening.

For outsiders, Shepard's characters may seem as exotic (and remote) as the Bedouin inhabitants of an Egyptian oasis. Still, for those attracted to American gothic, this collection of eighteen stories offers pleasure, humour and thoughts worth considering.

Great Dream of Heaven: Stories by Sam Shepard

Great Dream of Heaven: Stories
by Sam Shepard
Hardcover: 160 pages
Alfred A. Knopf, New York (15 October 2002)
ISBN: 0375405054

Antoine du Rocher is a French cultural journalist and writer based in New York. He is also a member of the editorial board of


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