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Moorefield House Publishing



Jacob Hammer's Review of The One Inside

Posted on February 19, 2018 at 8:00 AM

The One Inside by Sam Shepard

Reviewed by Jacob Hammer

I had only previously encountered Sam Shepard as a playwright in my literature survey courses,

so when I saw that he was releasing a novel I was excited to see his work in another medium. I

had been saving up spare cash to get it, but then my friend Santino loaned it to me with a hearty

recommendation and I set to it.

This was another novel that had a much looser plot structure. Shepard jumps between his

narrator’s childhood, near past, and what is likely the current timeline with frequent jumps into

dreams and dialogue. The book consists of chapters of only two or three pages, any of which can

move to any of these timelines. Despite this, the book is not awfully confusing to follow. One

way that Shepard achieves this is through chapter titles that hint at where the chapter will take

place in time. Other than that, he makes the timeline clear through his tone and other subtle

clues. He keeps from over-explaining, but also doesn’t let us lose our way.

Again, this novel does not lend itself to plot summary. The narrative we start out with follows

our narrator through a lucid dream state as he wanders through the desert surrounding his trailer

following the barking of his two dogs who are on the trail of something. Another timeline

follows his interactions with a much younger woman who is living with him in a relationship

whose boundaries are difficult for the narrator and her to understand. Piggy-backing on this

narrative is a series of dialogue pieces between the narrator and the girl over whether she can

publish their phone conversations as a book of some kind. They debate authorship, how people

will perceive their relationship (thus the actual nature of their relationship), and the merit of their

conversations as literature in this space. The narrator also leads us through his childhood,

specifically a time when his father was sleeping with a young woman and the turmoil that arose

from that both practically and for his own emotional states. These personal complications are

multiplied when the narrator and she sleep together at some point and made worse when the girl

(Felicity) commits suicide mysteriously. This leads to some other dialogue pieces titled under

“Interrogation” towards the end of the book. These main timelines are interspersed with general

reflections by the narrator on a variety of topics, dream sequences, and returns to the first

narrative, weaving it all together.

Shepard aligns all of these timelines well enough that we continue to follow the story virtually

seamlessly. As I was reading the book, I found that I really could only get through a couple

chapters a day. This was certainly not because they were difficult to read, but instead, because it

was something that I wanted to allow to sink in day-by-day. I enjoyed spending time with a novel

that provided such a confused narrator struggling not only with his past, but incursions of his

past into his present like a fog. I also appreciated seeing another aspect of an artist whose work

as a playwright had such an effect on how I looked at literature as an undergraduate.

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