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The One Inside

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  889 ratings  ·  167 reviews
An extraordinary work of long fiction from the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright — a tour de force of memory, mystery, death, and life.

Sam Shepard's searing, evocative narrative opens with a man in his house at dawn, surrounded by aspens and by coyotes cackling far away as he quietly navigates the distance between present and past. More and more, memory is overtaking him:
Hardcover, 172 pages
Published February 7th 2017 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Average rating 3.49  · 
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 ·  889 ratings  ·  167 reviews

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This gorgeously-conceived and -written memoir is simply delicious to hear. Bill Pullman reads it, sounding so much like Shepard’s remembered craggy, crusty voice crossing the ranges of a human heart on its journey from teen to seventy years. He is sly, self-serving, and somehow sincere, still sexy, selective, remembering his father’s young mistress, confusing us and himself about when he eventually becomes his father (now “one year older than his father was when he died”) and when any indiscreti ...more
Ron Charles
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: guys-wandering
After watching a half-century of his legendary coolness, you either believe that 73-year-old Sam Shepard has the right stuff or you don’t. Aside from his steely performance in dozens of movies and TV shows, he’s the author of almost 50 plays, including his Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, “Buried Child” (1979), which should be remembered as one of the greatest dramas of the 20th century. He’s got nothing more to prove.

And yet now, “The One Inside ” is being hyped as Shepard’s “first work of l
Claire Fuller
Mar 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
Beautiful prose, but too fragmentary to really be a novel, or even short stories. The mood is very evocative, dream-like, obscure, and sometimes in the slightly longer sections this really worked for me, but then something very short would cut in, and my mind would want to try to sort it out, where it fitted in the narrative. Perhaps I should have been able to just let go and have it wash over me like poetry, but that didn't work either.
Interesting, but not perfect.
Perfect pairing of author and narrator. This book, you guys. On Audio. Go. Get it. Now.
lark benobi
Mar 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
The foreword by Patti Smith was incomprehensible, which forewarned me that the book itself, when I got to it, would be unusual. Smith was trying hard to channel the rhythm and slant-ness of Shepard's writing, and failed. Her attempt, though, points out the difficulty of saying anything definitive about what Shepard has written here.

The experience of reading Shepard's prose was so interesting. The words I was reading evoked strong memories in me of things I hadn't thought about for years, and tha
Ron S
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: oklahoma
Something between a collection of vignettes, surrealism, short story and thinly veiled memoir that stretches in time from a boy of 13 to a man of 70. Atmospheric and haunting.
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sam is one of the greats, so you know what to expect here. Greatness. This is a scattered work that jumps around in time, mixes memoir and fiction, these little vignettes mostly focusing on women and being a loner that needs's sometimes a fine line between wanting to go c'mon Sam don't act so bewildered when you're nailing a 20 year-old in your 70s, but then y'know what? We should just be grateful for his continued devotion to his art, his generosity in portraying himself as true and ...more
Marcia Aldrich
May 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Wish I could say I liked this book. I wanted to, was prepared to, but wasn't. I'm fine with fragmentary works, even fine with works that falsely label themselves as fiction, as this one does. But I couldn't help think this book would never have been published if it wasn't written by Shepard, that his reputation and fame dictated its being published. And that insecurity about its quality was betrayed by having the much loved Patti smith introduce it. ...more
Sian Lile-Pastore
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great writing is just great.
I love Sam Shepard so much. Is this fiction or did he have lotsa affairs that drove Jessica Lange away? Gosh.
He drinks a lot of coffee in this book which I liked. It's kind of a bit dreamy and fiction/memoir. I loved it.
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shepard's writing is magical, I love him. He writes magic. And he writes feelings.

I. Love. Him.
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Not quite sure what to make of this book. Is it the rough outline for a new semi-autobiographical play? Or is it a "treatment" for a movie sorta, kinda about the author? Or is it a long short story or novelette about a particularly telling portion of Sam Shepard's somewhat tortured life as he advances toward his inevitable demise? Either way, it's pretty darn good reading.

The writing is done in short staccato Hemingwayesque bursts much like the Brazilian single shot .410 caliber rifle the semi-
Apr 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Jumping and dream-ridden and bordering on incomprehensible in terms of a linear narrative, this is a dizzying and heartbroken descent into a sad masculinity, haunted by various phantom women, with a nice taste of magical realism (headless horses flying out of mouths, shrunken fathers carried around by a pack of gangsters, etc.). Characters and time, come and go, things disappear and reappear. The inconclusiveness of anything in the story makes it purely experiential and it's a weird and quick ex ...more
Feb 20, 2017 rated it liked it
The writing is beautiful. The sentence structure unique. The story, meh.
Annie Larussa
Jul 24, 2017 rated it liked it
I found the wandering format of this book hard to follow. I never really got into the characters. But Shepard's descriptions of places were beautiful. I could imagine Shepard writing this book, as someone who so appreciates his plays, I could hear Shepard's voice. But the story kept falling apart for me. ...more
I once wrote in a review that I think I just don't like short stories/essays -- after all, I haven't really enjoyed any Roxane Gay or Patti Smith, and the entire internet seems to lose their sh*t over those two. So, maybe it's just me. This isn't supposed to be in that category, as they're calling it long fiction, so I thought it might be different, but to me it feels that way. It wasn't until about 3/4 of the way through the book that I realized there is actually a plot that is loosely tying th ...more
Nell Beaudry
Mar 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Sam Shepard's The One Inside is a slim, fragmentary memoir in which teasing apart the truth from the creative elaboration is more and more difficult as the two become more entangled, just as teasing apart conversations in which the speaker is not identified is not always easy, or teasing apart the roles of the individual players within the fabric of the narrative. The language is at once simple and beautiful, rarely reaching for a vocabulary more complicated than necessary, all while producing g ...more
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
DNF. I was looking for something different. This qualifies, but I couldn't really engage after reading a third of the book. Reviewers seem confused as to whether to treat this as nonfiction or fiction. Reality suggests it is probably a little of both. Some of the language is quite beautiful and evocative: this is, after all, Sam Shepard's writing. But some of the chapters just seem self-indulgent, like those reporting the narrator's purported interactions/dialogue with Blackmail Girl about his/h ...more
Kevin Adams
May 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Sam Shepard has an amazing way for words. His plays give us a different world and The One Inside, his first full novel (hard to believe he hasn't written one before) gives us individual glimpses of the lives of the unnamed narrator and his father over decades. They felt like tiny vignettes of these lives and would make an outstanding play. Beautiful structure and language. ...more
Shepard has created a a world of memories, rendered in disparate and dissociated recollections, dreams, hallucinations, conversations, etc. The various storylines dissolve into each other creating a seemingly otherworldly view of the instability of his relationships.
Dennis Delaney
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Reading Sam Shepard, for me, is tantamount to being knocked off of my feet by a flash flood. Whisked through canyons and desert and dry river beds. Coyotes barking, eagles soaring overhead, snakes slithering past. Blazing sun and horizontal snow. Damaged characters waiting for my arrival. Waiting to damage me. An unprotected world. Unprotected shelter, unprotected wildlife, unprotected sex, unprotected thoughts, unprotected consequences. The curse of the starving class. Ashes to ashes, dust to d ...more
Jul 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Rest in Love, Sam Shepard 1943-2017
May 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'd like to amend my original review below, which I now think is reductive and shallow. This book has stayed with me and haunted me, much like Sam Shepard's early work. He's a great talent, and I didn't give that its due. I haven't read anything by him for a couple of decades now, but I am going to.


I had a huge crush on Sam Shepard when I was in my 20s. I read the anthologies of plays with his sexy face on the cover and saw Buried Child on Broadway. Jessica Lange had been involved with both
Erika Morillo
Aug 20, 2017 rated it liked it
This is the first thing I read by Sam Shepard, and I really enjoyed the oneiric scenes he depicts, his vivid descriptions of the American emotional and physical landscape and how he moves swiftly from dreams to reality, making you a little dizzy and confused. I especially liked the inclusion of this "tiny man" in his story, which to me felt like a metaphor of his coming to terms with aging and the relationship with his father, as if in this last stage of his life, his father and him became one, ...more
Valarie Smith
May 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I could never have understood this book if I were in my 20s or 30s, but in my 40s, I feel The One Inside deep within my bones.

In Shepard's blurring of past, present and future, in his struggle to grasp the shape of his life's personal narrative, in his confusion of what really happened versus what was imagined, his vulnerability and fragility are our own. Shepard's voice is, as ever, open, honest and real - authentic in a way I fear we won't see again in this increasingly corporatized world.
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Not your usual book but a very good read. I have read Shepard's short stories and loved them. This is less accessible but has some beautiful language in it. I kept wondering if parts were autobiographical. Worth reading just don't expect a typical "story" ...more
Steven Hull
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is the first of Shepard’s works I have read. I know him as an actor, which was a craft he conquered. Although I don’t read much fiction, I thought I would dabble into his work as an author, knowing that there must be carry over from his excellence as a thespian. I wasn’t disappointed.
There are themes and some continuity among these stories. There is continuity in Shepard’s ability to turn a phrase, surprise the reader, and evoke a spectrum of emotions.
I most enjoyed his creativity as a
Jun 29, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed how the novel moved through time and space without holding the readers hand. It painted a complete picture of the protagonist (if you can call him that).
Lars Meijer
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
’Maybe they believe they’ll forever be exiled from a life of their dreams.’
Vincent Eaton
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of his last works before his death two years ago at 73. Five traditional stars, ten stars for his writing life. It's Sam, that's what this, and all, his work is. ...more
Luke Spooner
Nov 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Pretty weird
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Sam Shepard was an American artist who worked as an award-winning playwright, writer and actor. His many written works are known for being frank and often absurd, as well as for having an authentic sense of the style and sensibility of the gritty modern American west. He was an actor of the stage and motion pictures; a director of stage and film; author of several books of short stories, essays, a ...more

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