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ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dave Eggers joins Deborah Treisman to read and discuss "Indianapolis (Highway 74)," by Sam Shepard, from a 2009 issue of the magazine. Eggers is the author of twelve books, including the novels "Heroes of the Frontier," "The Circle," and "The Wild Things." A new novel, "The Parade," will be published in March.

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TRANSCRIPT

00:00:00this New Yorker podcast is supported by indeed dot com are you hiring with indeed you can post a job in minutes set up screener questions then zero in on your short list of qualified candidates using an online dashboard get started today at indeed dot com slash New Yorker
00:00:14that's indeed dot com slash New Yorker this is the New York affection podcast from The New Yorker magazine I'm deputy spend fiction editor at The New Yorker each month we invite a writer to choose a story from the magazine's archives to read and discuss this month we're going
00:00:34to hear Indianapolis highway seventy four by Sam Shepard which was published in The New Yorker in November of two thousand nine than she does an amazing thing she whips off the blue bandanna and shakes out a mane of red hair that topples almost to her waist now it
00:00:50all comes back %HESITATION it's you I say still unable to attach a name the story was chosen by Dave Eggers who is the author of twelve books including the novels a hologram for the king and heroes of the frontier and the memoir a heartbreaking work of staggering genius
00:01:08hi Dave Hey Deborah how are you welcome tell me about you and Sam Shepard's worker you a long long time fan of his plays or his his prose %HESITATION in our eyes and counter the plays first %HESITATION it must have been when he was at the magic theater
00:01:28in San Francisco at some point I wrote him a letter and %HESITATION I sent him a book that I wrote that was all dialogue in sort of like a play but it was a novel but just happen to be on dialogue in I had read that he grew
00:01:42up or was born in fort Sheridan Illinois which is about a mile from where I grew up so I sort of wrote him a letter with that as the opening question and he was very kind will back in a few weeks and %HESITATION I think he said that
00:01:57he wasn't born in fort shared many just said because it's not a good except I think he denied having been born there but it's in in all of his official biographies but %HESITATION he knows this military base that was you know just down the street from it we
00:02:10used to play at and %HESITATION I thought it was so great that are he had some connection to my %HESITATION Lake Michigan childhood but I was just very %HESITATION moved to to hear back from him and %HESITATION because I'd never met him didn't know me from Adam but
00:02:27you know I've always felt in so many ways %HESITATION distant admiration for him on like nineteen different levels do you think that the way he uses dialogue in in the place had some influence on the book you sent him yeah hi a little bit obviously he's is dialogue
00:02:48is so precise but it's so thoroughly American and conversational at the same time it's hard to pull off is never a word that seems out of place or sort of too fancy for its context or totally off %HESITATION but the cumulative power of his %HESITATION seemingly every day
00:03:11conversational English is %HESITATION profound and %HESITATION maybe that was his his gift was sort of recording perfectly accurate American English %HESITATION and specially English from rural America I guess even though he's taught you know his background is all over the US food yeah you know I when I
00:03:35was in New York %HESITATION and live there for a couple years and %HESITATION the as I got to see some plays that the first time I'd ever seen place in New York and I got to see that great production of true west with %HESITATION John C. Reilly in
00:03:52and Philip Seymour Hoffman where they traded who played to a night after night and %HESITATION it was %HESITATION this one of the best experiences I've ever had in the theatre because I love both of those actors so much and they were so perfect in the roles that I
00:04:08saw the man I and you couldn't possibly imagine them in any other role and then they would flip it the next night which I thought was just absolute genius one thing that he will hear him doing with speech and dialogue in the story is that it it's not
00:04:24just city captures how Americans speak it said he captures how awkward we are yeah and and and how he has such an ear for how inept we are expressing thing shepherd and his characters always have a little bit more of a slow talking laconic way and you never
00:04:49find like a real fast talking rarely I think fast talking Sam Shepard character you know there's a sort of a a casual precision to the language that I think is really his both in his plays and as an actor %HESITATION is something very deliberate about it and he
00:05:10uses words like just like a hammer punching nails you know just even F. the sin taxes a little awkward and the sentences don't always end in holiday people enter after each other in and fumbled a bit but %HESITATION is kind of a sneaky precision to it yeah I
00:05:29think we should dive into the story now we'll talk some more afterwards all right now here's Dave Eggers reading Indianapolis highway seventy four by Sam Shepard Indianapolis highway seventy four I've been criss crossing the country again without much reason sometimes a place will just pop into my head
00:05:53and I'll take off this time down to normal Illinois from high up in white Minnesota dead of winter icy roads wind blowing sideways across the empty corn fields find myself stopping for the night outside Indianapolis off seventy four just before it makes its sweeping junction with sixty five
00:06:10south to Louisville I randomly pick a holiday and more for its familiar green logo and predictability than anything else plus some wiped out evidently there's some kind of hot rod convention going on in town although I seem to remember those always taking place at the height of summer
00:06:26when people can run around a convertible coops with that tops down anyway there are no rooms available except possibly one and that one is smoking which I've nothing against the desk clerk tells me she'll know in about ten minutes if there's going to be a cancellation I'm welcome
00:06:42to wait so I do not wanting to face another ninety some miles down to Kentucky through threatening weather I collapse into one of the overstuffed sofa is in the lobby facing two plasma screen TV's in opposite corners both tune to the same reality channel showing surveillance footage of
00:07:01convenience store robberies teenagers and hooded sweatshirts holding up their baggy jeans with one hand while the other pumps nine millimeter slugs into screaming victims who claim they have no access to the safe I asked the desk clerk if she can please turn the TV is off for change
00:07:17the channel but she says that she has no control over it the TV's are on some kind of pre ordained computer system much like sprinklers in Los Angeles search garage security lights everywhere else I ask her if she can at least mute the sound so that I don't
00:07:33have to listen to the agonized groans of the victims of the raging insanity of the gunmen but she says that she has no control over that either I pick up a travel magazine featuring carribean vacations from the glass table and leaf through it pausing at every picture of
00:07:49a bikini clad woman lounging beach side holding a tall icy cocktail and staring smugly at the camera the screams and groans and gunfire from the TV's keep repeating a loop cycles and soon lose all sense of being connected to murder I find myself anticipating the next screen the
00:08:06way you would a familiar lyric in a pop song was the high shrieking temper tantrum sequence just after he pops off a rapid spread of shots I'm not sure how long I hang there and then though in the lobby but it feels like far more than ten minutes
00:08:24a tall skinny women in a cloth Pat Nixon type coat and a blue bandanna comes through the revolving doors pulling a small suitcase on wheels she smiles at me as she passes and I feel immediately sad for no reason that I can put my finger on she pauses
00:08:40at the desk to get a key then continues toward the elevators giving me a quick glance over her shoulder as she disappears down the hallway again I feel this little stab of melancholy her emptiness maybe that's it I stand and stretch then walk over the desk and asked
00:08:56the girl if she knows anything more about the cancellation not yet she says but reassures me that the possible gas will be calling any second now they're coming in from tupelo Mississippi with the trailer load of hot rods and everything depends on the weather she says I returned
00:09:12to the squashes so often collapse again isn't to below where Elvis was born I noticed the yellow spine of a National Geographic at the bottom of the stack on the glass table and to get out the feature story is titled the black pharaoh's conquerors of ancient Egypt a
00:09:30man who looks very much like the young James Earl Jones is on the cover his muscular arms crossed over his chest with a leopard skin Cape thick gold necklaces and gold leaf skull cap with two shining cobras on the crown staring stoically out I am flipping through the
00:09:46glossy pages when I feel a tall presence beside me and hear a high pitched female voice saying my name with a question mark behind it Stewart I turned to see the same skinny woman in her cloth coat but without the suitcase you don't remember me do you she
00:10:02asks I stare into her green eyes searching for something to recognize but the same tinge of melancholy is all I get nineteen sixty five she says with a little sigh tenth street and second Avenue Saint mark's church I'm drawing a blank I confess I've been driving for days
00:10:21what seems like days anyway she laughs nervously half embarrassed and stares at the carpet we lived together for a while don't you remember we get up every morning and sit on the edge of my mattress eating bowls of wheat germ with brown honey all over it %HESITATION I
00:10:37say and keep staring into her eyes with mounting desperation wondering if maybe I've snapped some fragile synapse in my brain from too much driving the final breakdown of road madness right here in Indianapolis then she doesn't amazing thing she whips off the blue bandanna and shakes out a
00:10:54mane of red hair that topples almost to her waist now it all comes back %HESITATION it's you I say still unable to attach a name who she giggles you don't remember me at all day you of course I do you're just saying that no then what's my name
00:11:15come on it wasn't that long ago nineteen sixty five I say four six no it couldn't have been maybe sixty eight that was it that's still forty years ago now she laughs added up yeah I guess it was wasn't Beth rate I blurt out no see you don't
00:11:36remember Betty close what then this is wearing me out Becky she announces with a beaming smile in her arms wide open as if I were about to jump up and embrace her sure Bacchae that's right Becky of course what's my last name %HESITATION please I can't keep up
00:11:56with this I'm really wiped out faint she says feign St Becky Marie Thane right I say you really don't have any recollection at all do you she says in almost a whisper and stifles a little chuckle she crosses her long arms and hold her shoulder softly as though
00:12:17filling the blank of affection she wishes were coming from me I was so in love with you Stuart she says sighing and our eyes drift down to the pink wall to wall carpeting with pizza stains and Pepsi splashes the violent sounds of the surveillance loop keep Mursili repeating
00:12:34I noticed the girl behind the desk giving us a side ways glance then returning to the bright green glow of her computer screen there is no escape Becky Murray fan lets her long arms fall to her sides and surrender the blue bandanna dangling from a right hand I
00:12:51return the National Geographic to the glass table and then I do certainly get a picture of that time a fleeting memory of a morning facing a New York window with a bowl clenched between my naked knees and I say just to be saying something your hair is even
00:13:06redder than I remember which makes her burst out laughing happy that I haven't abandoned the game it's not real she says what I say thinking she's referring to something metaphysical the color clear all out of a bottle %HESITATION %HESITATION well it looks great thanks very %HESITATION festive festive
00:13:29she giggles influx the back of her head like a movie star and she gets embarrassed again and twists herself from side to side so how old were you then I stumble on without really wanting to we were kids she says we were barely in our twenties where we
00:13:47I was anyway I know that much kids yeah I guess how many do you have she asks her green eyes meet mine in a little twinge of sadness I was feeling turns into an under two I mean children she nods in her eyes stay hooked me I've got
00:14:04a whole bunch I say how many she insists five but not all with the same woman that doesn't surprise me she smiles how about you ask two I have two girls to that's great where are they I say here well I mean that's right you're from Indianapolis aren't
00:14:24you yes I am you remember that she smiles I remember your dad calling back then when we were sitting on the bed eating that stuff wheat germ right he called to tell you there was a riot going on in your front yard so it must've been sixty eight
00:14:41wasn't how was when there was a riot every other day must've been Martin Luther king and write everything exploding Detroit LA the whole world on fire seemed like well she pauses fishing for something more I didn't mean to I mean I was so shocked when I walk through
00:15:02the door and saw you sitting there I couldn't believe it I knew it was you as soon as I saw you but I thought I can't just walk on by and not say anything you know just go on up to my room and pretend it wasn't you I
00:15:15had to come back down and say something I mean all this time no I'm glad you did it's great to see what in the world are you doing here in Indianapolis just passing through %HESITATION how about you I mean if you live here how come you're on holiday
00:15:31in everything stops she goes suddenly nom Anor lips start to tremble for some reason the background seems to have gone silent the girl at the desk stares at us now as though she suspects that something illegal is going on my husband Becky says and holds on the words
00:15:50my husband disappeared a month and a half ago he just took off on no I say he took the girls now he may have left the country I find myself standing in making a feeble gesture toward comforting her but I'd rather be running out the door have you
00:16:07I mean do you have help my mouth is gone dry police lawyers yes I've gone through all that that's a pretty serious I mean that's considered kidnapping is not it is kidnapping have you got any clues I mean we followed some credit card debts you know gas stations
00:16:26restaurants but they all led to dead ends everything winds up in Florida and just stops Florida he has some family down there what about the girls how old are they fifteen and seventeen there's still some investigation going on at the house so that's why I can't stay there
00:16:43%HESITATION I just took a room here for the time being I'm kind of in limbo I guess she casts an arm out limply and the blue bandanna flutters up like a distant flag of truce her eyes scanned the two plasma screens as the screaming and the gunfire start
00:16:58up again I'm sorry she says I didn't mean to lay all this on you I just saw you sitting there when I came in thought no that's okay I'm glad you and just great to see you again she laughs and breaks down but quickly recovers yourself and turns
00:17:13your shoulder to me I moved to console there but she turned her back completely and crosses her arms again the desk clerk is heading straight for me across the lobby with their laminated name tag pinned to her chest in an apologetic face I'm sorry Sir she says but
00:17:28they've just confirm that room I was telling you about that smoking room with two beds %HESITATION I say yeah they just phoned in to confirm it they're on their way I'm sorry about that that's okay there's a motel six just off for sixty five the usually might have
00:17:45a vacancy if you want I can call down there to see if they've got something would you mind doing that I appreciated very much no problem I'll let you know she heads back to a post thank you seems to have pulled herself together now her arms dropped and
00:18:02she starts brushing off the front of our code as though she just discovered land she turns to me with a smile and rubs her eyes with the back of her hand well I'm so glad I ran into you Stuart you look the same as always she steps toward
00:18:16me with her hand extended which I find slightly ineffectual under the circumstances but I go along with that her hand feels icy and slam and she slides it back out of my grip almost immediately then she gives me a little Peck on the cheek like a sister might
00:18:32it all comes back to me now the smell of her soft breath by she says abruptly and walks away disappearing down the hallway again if I had a gun right now I'd shoot both the plasma TV screens and maybe the overstuffed sofa and then maybe I'd start in
00:18:47on the glass coffee table with the carribean vacation brochure and all the time and Newsweek magazines with men of the year on their covers instead I walked back over to the desk with a girl with a laminated name is being surprisingly helpful I get close enough to read
00:19:03the tag as she squashes the phone between her chin in her collar bone loss scratching down a note lashandra the tag says and it has a little yellow happy face to go with it lashandra I say to her not knowing exactly which syllable to emphasize she squints at
00:19:19me and holds a blue lacquered fingernail to our lips as though she were about to land a luxury suite down at the motel six I signaled to her that I no longer want the room by drawing my index finger across my throat then head for the revolving doors
00:19:34lashandra calls out to me in dismay Sir excuse me Sir I turned back to her don't you want the room I think I might have found yourself thing no thanks but I do appreciate your efforts you're very kind oh no problem at all Sir sorry it didn't work
00:19:51out leshondra can I ask you a quick question sure Sir anything at all don't you ever go crazy listening to that TV all night long that murder %HESITATION I don't even hear it anymore you know it's just always on she smiles and I passed through the revolving doors
00:20:09the pistol shots fade behind the glass outside it's dark snow flakes floating through orange light I completely forgot that I left the car running and my yellow dog is clawing frantically at the windows seeing me approach I letter out the back she slides across a patch of ice
00:20:28as she hits the asphalt her tail is wagging wildly in circles as though she picked up the scent of a quail she dashes off toward a little square of brown grass to take a leak the temperature feels like it's dropped down into the low twenties now and the
00:20:43flying snow makes my eyes tear up the dog must be taking the longest piss on earth she just squats there with one hind leg weirdly raise staring straight at me as though I might run off without her steam rises behind her a hollow moan of the highway makes
00:21:01me wonder if I finally broken all connections without even really wanting to I put my dog back in the car and slide into the driver's seat which is now red hot since I also left the seat warmer on I'm about to drop the gear shift down into drive
00:21:17when I look up to the snow and there she is Becky Murray Thane standing directly between the headlights staring at me with a look not unlike my dogs she's standing there shivering without her coat and the snow catches hold of her red hair and it glows in the
00:21:31back light like a halo am I now having a religious experience she comes running up to the window as I roll it down amazed I'm sorry she says I just thought maybe you'd want to stay in my room since you can't I mean I have a couch and
00:21:46everything separate couch it's a fold out you know in an alcove with a sink not a whole room exactly but I just thought it would save you a trip in this weather I'm not trying to you know %HESITATION thanks Becky I say cutting her off I really appreciated
00:22:02by they ought to be getting down down the road all right that's fine that's fine she smiles I just thought I'd offer I wasn't trying to no thanks so much so it was really great to see you again bye she said sweetly and gives me a little fluttering
00:22:18wave then blows me a kiss as I drive off I watch in the rear view mirror as she darts back into the lobby stopping the snow offer shoes at the entrance I'm trying to think of what old movie this reminds me of one of those corny black and
00:22:32white forties Air Force films with tearful goodbyes as Jimmy Stewart flies off into the wild blue yonder wise everything I'm conjuring up in black and white the snow was really assaulting the windshield as a head for the Louisville junction the dog turning tight circles in the back and
00:22:48dropping down into a ball and tucking her nose into a tail resigning yourself to yet another hundred miles of bleak highway I start drifting off into the past as the world gets dimmer and whiter maybe there's a correlation between external blindness an internal picturing I can see the
00:23:06edge of the mattress now in our great bowls side by side or knees touching these are some of the other things that go sailing through my head as I strained to keep the car between the lines leaving the desert on a clear day boarding the greyhound getting off
00:23:22in time square huge poster of a pop group from England with three Stooges hair cuts blood bank with a sign in the window offering five dollars a pint plaque cores with red hair Chet Baker standing in a doorway on Avenue C. Thompson square park with its giant tripping
00:23:40American alums cabbage and barley soup Karen Polish for the first time Old World women in band then as an overcoat Cubans playing chess rumors of acid and T. C. P. crowds gathered around a black limo listening to radio report of Kennedy's killing jungles burning with napalm caskets covered
00:24:01in American flags mules hauling Martin Luther king junior's coffin Stanley turn team carrying is acts in a paper sack I'm turning around I'm in the middle of a blizzard and I'm turning around I come up on a giant tractor trailer rig Jack knifed in a ditch no sign
00:24:20of a driver I'm up over the median now with the hazard lights flashing hoping that nothing is roaring down on top of me from the opposite lanes I'm driving blind I'd get over the shoulder but I can't tell where it is something is happening to my eye sight
00:24:35in the constant on coming flow and swirl of snow I feel as if I'm suddenly falling through space and the wheels of somehow lost all contact with the earth I really am coming completely apart now shaking terrible shivers gripping the wheel as if any second I could just
00:24:52go plunging off into the abyss and never be found somehow instinctively pope my way back through the gray to the looping exit and limp into the Holiday Inn parking lot the family from two below are unloading their huge crew cab diesel in the whirling storm sliding their coolers
00:25:08and luggage across the icy black time I just sit there for a while watching them through the wipers my hazard lights still flashing in my dog getting very nervous about what may lie ahead maybe I'll just spend the night in the car I think waited out that would
00:25:24mean leaving the engine running so that I wouldn't freeze to death that would mean that the dog would be whining and turning in circles I snap on my satellite radio for some possible clue the angelic voice of Sam Cooke I can't take it I turn it off not
00:25:40wanting to provoke a total emotional breakdown can I just sit here all night like this engine running dogs spinning lights blinking snow falling what will happen when the sun finally comes out in the snow stops in the ice melts in the whole landscape is transformed into spring and
00:25:57stuff is blooming and farmers are running their gigantic combines up and down the long rows what will happen then what I still be sitting here like this with the car running what will happen when they discover that someone is trying to live in his car in the Holiday
00:26:12Inn parking lot I've got to get this car parked so I do and then one thing leads to another and I'm heading back into the lobby not really looking forward to encounter Machon your again not really looking forward to waiting in line behind the to pull over hot
00:26:28rod family but there I am thank god the TV channel is changed now it's news with some distinguished looking dude in a suit parading back and forth in front of a huge electronic map of the United States magically touching and brushing it in different areas causing it to
00:26:45light up red in the south blue in the north giving the impression that the whole damn country is a cartoon show divided up like apple pie and no one actually lives here trying to score a simple room at the Holiday Inn in the middle of a blizzard somewhere
00:26:59on the outskirts of Indianapolis the tupelo family finally trundle off with all their gear toward the smoking room I once coveted Chandra's faces on sure what expression to make when she sees me pathetically standing there again it's a cross between smiling politeness and sheer terror at what she
00:27:18must see in my eyes lashandra hi I say meekly she says nothing I was wondering if you could do me a favor I the storm is really bad out there he wouldn't believe it that's what they were saying she says those folks from tupelo it's unbelievable white out
00:27:36I can barely see the hood in front of me they've got it on the news she says all the way down into New Orleans I guess really well I couldn't I had to turn back around I still haven't got any vacancy though she says no I know I
00:27:53know that but when I was wondering is I have an old friend here that woman you know that woman I was talking to before that tall skinny women with the red hair right she says I was wondering if you could give me a room number because she offered
00:28:07to let me stay in a room and are not allowed to give out the names of gas Sir no I know I mean I know our name her name is Becky Marie saying and we used to live together in New York City way back in well I still
00:28:21can't just give out the room number Sir that's our policy I understand that but do you think I could call %HESITATION than on the house phone would that be alright sure I can let you do that let me get you connected she slides the house phone to order
00:28:36looks at Becky's room number punches it and then hands me the receiver I'm holding it to my ear hoping that leshondra will stop staring at me and Turner back discreetly but she stays right there eyes boring into mine Becky picks up hello she says and the simple innocence
00:28:54of her voice starts me weeping and I can't stop Hey lashandra finally turns away that was Dave Eggers reading Indianapolis highway seventy four by Sam Shepard the story appeared in The New Yorker in November of two thousand nine and was included in his collection day out of days
00:29:14which was published by can often two thousand ten this New Yorker podcast is supported by the people of Austria an Austrian airlines who want to help you get in the holiday spirit now that's better the holiday Carol Silent Night was written exactly two hundred years ago and Austria's
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00:30:06writer and director Aaron Sorkin about his new adaptation for the stage of Harper Lee's classic to kill a mocking reading the book now fifty eight years after it had been written there were things I found troubling about Atticus Aaron Sorkin joins me this week on The New Yorker
00:30:25radio hour from W. NYC studios wherever you get your so they've just re opens with this man Stuart just aimlessly crisscrossing the country driving south through Minnesota going to normal Illinois to Indianapolis to think that that trajectory is meaningful to the story you know he tells us it's
00:30:49random it's it's an idea that pops into his head for no reason but why would you randomly decide to drive through Minnesota and the dead of winter yeah well especially since it seems like he's trying to you would think he's going south trying to get out of the
00:31:06snow but he's running into %HESITATION blizzard in %HESITATION Kentucky which there aren't too many of those he's he's heading to Louisville from and he's just outside Indianapolis yeah when this snowstorm hits yeah I I believe it and some of his other stories there's there's a lot of roads
00:31:27and highways and %HESITATION and meandering I think %HESITATION shepherd really has a feel for rural America and %HESITATION what it's like to %HESITATION have that kind of freedom to come and go and be anywhere you you want to be I think in in his own life you know
00:31:47we lived in so many different places and %HESITATION I could see a I don't I've only had a few road trips that were that aimless I guess as I think secretly maybe maybe there's something there %HESITATION there's some motive that is there that's not expressed in the %HESITATION
00:32:05in the story but I like the fact that we don't really know %HESITATION where he's going and where he's coming from and we don't know much about his people and who he is connected to and so it gives it %HESITATION a nice tension to start with and we
00:32:22when we find out that he might be at least sixty I think it adds %HESITATION even more sort of know pesos Sir yeah for certain sadness to it yeah because on on the one hand he has the freedom to pick up and go wherever he he gets an
00:32:41idea to go but on the other hand %HESITATION he seems to be sort of desperately running away from something you know what her out the story but I want because there yeah and I want to ask you about this because he expresses it a little bit on the
00:33:00story that he's out obviously is not our happy go lucky guy story Anne's weeping at the end but there's something I mean this is what I think %HESITATION attracts a lot of people and always has attracted people to this country is just how much room there is you
00:33:21know the interstate highways and %HESITATION you really can go and drive off and never see anybody you've ever known again and %HESITATION I love that as sort of a concept and I also like the concept that maybe sometimes people are just going not necessarily running away going because
00:33:41there instead of going from something or running from something to go on to something I like the idea of allowing him or anybody to go without motive or without a reason it's like yeah we always we have to ascribe you know we always have to think like if
00:34:00you're not at home you're running you know or whatever but it but in the end %HESITATION the adventure itself it's a goal in itself I think we can allow invalidated sometimes on the other hand you you often feel especially in stories about driving that if you're not running
00:34:19from something you're looking for something yeah it seems possible he's looking for something he may not know what it is well right yeah I like that I mean he inadvertently found it I think that this other recently lost soul somebody in a state of %HESITATION real crisis and
00:34:42something and then situation that would could be unimaginably painful but for a moment they can kind of harken back to a more innocent and simple time forty years ago and maybe relive it Friday night and I think that they both kind of dance around whether or not they
00:35:02want to do that well on the other hand he's he's kind of desperate to get away you know he he basically high tails it out of the out of the motels and she goes to her room I think it's too much right too much too soon it's just
00:35:16begin now it came as a shock she had had time upstairs to think about she recognized him right away and then had time to say okay do I want to do this to a one approach this guide to what do I want to welcome him back and even
00:35:32for a night but he hasn't had that when she visits Hammond ending you know introduces herself for recognizes and he doesn't have that time I think to sort of yeah bad word process what's happening and he doesn't have that time until he's on the highway which I think
00:35:50is when he thinks you know that's when he adds clarity of thought are flashbacks yeah on one level this is the story that's totally grounded in in realistic things we can see this holiday and we can see this highway you know this road on another level the whole
00:36:09kind of backdrop to me feel sort of surreal you know he's sitting in this motel lobby with this in face of soundtrack of murder looping camera no you know no TV show no new shows going to replay graphic murder over and over and over without stopping it's not
00:36:30quite a realistic landscape somehow there's something sort of stream like about it and and also the idea that they're having a hot rod convention in the middle of them radic quite rings as as real it does have that sort of tenor of a dream or a strange and
00:36:50slightly slightly nightmarish %HESITATION seen as a background and then and then both of them referring to themselves as as being in limbo yeah and it's happening presumably during an election it looks like you know they're painting the country blue and red and and he's the TV guy is
00:37:09%HESITATION sweeping his hand over the country and turning state's blue you know blue or red randomly and %HESITATION so I think that's very Sam Shepard ask if I found one of somebody's use that term before but to sort of you put it well where it seems very realistic
00:37:29but if but its heightened for sure and %HESITATION he had such a knack I think for slipping in different aspects of americana in a combination that never quite over does it and still feels kind of appropriately but now in a way you know where this cycle of murder
00:37:50%HESITATION caught on film is a we played and %HESITATION and used to sell advertising and to the point where lashandra doesn't even notice it anymore and just it's part of the white noise of her life but you know and then at the next time he looks at the
00:38:09TV there is a guy sort of offhandedly %HESITATION dividing the country into and hitting the colors against each other and I think I thought that that was like a nice surprise at the end that he sort of included that too and at such a sign of in the
00:38:25story was written because the blue and red was pretty new back in two thousand nine like that's not a very old concept that was done by one of the TV networks you know less than ten twelve years ago when they came up with the blue and red rang
00:38:40rang it also feels very a very much of our mom yeah this could have been written yesterday for sure I think that the there's not much of shepherds work that stated ever have any I don't I can't think of anything that is is really dated I think all
00:38:59of his stuff is very timely Slee Eric and I don't think it'll ever change I think toast will always be a part of our lives for example true pressed and %HESITATION I don't think anybody ever got it better than he did in terms of what life is like
00:39:18specially outside of the cities and in these in between places and in every thing he wrote you really feel the fastness of the land in both its inner liberation and %HESITATION and loneliness and just how incredibly wide open and sad that can be and how every so often
00:39:38you might find another human and then have to decide whether that person is a friend or foe in what's interesting is that you have a contrast between this this you know vast landscape is criss crossing and this time forty years ago when they're in such a cramped small
00:39:56space they have to sit on the bed you know with their knees touching to eat their their return in the mornings a more contain time which is dateable you know they can data to to the riots after Martin Luther king was assassinated and it's it's grounded and now
00:40:12neither of these people is grounded at all you know he's floating and she's she's lost everything inner house she can't access yeah are when you think about the trajectory from you know twenty to sixty to be the other way right rate he should be in a more settled
00:40:32place with the comforts of home and %HESITATION and regularity yeah I like that sort of %HESITATION reversal in a way I didn't %HESITATION connects via the bowl held between the knees %HESITATION which is such a great way of saying we lived %HESITATION in close quarters now without and
00:40:55Michael with a table and but you know I love these stories were you know every place they're talking about too you know like I know those apartments on Saint mark's place and %HESITATION %HESITATION been in way too many of them way back in the day and %HESITATION and
00:41:12when everything rings true you just %HESITATION nothing worse than reading a story where you know the place and it's not right you know oh god that's not was at all it's not are you generalize it to you give it some sort of %HESITATION because in blur of you
00:41:31know like there's always something so so finely chiseled and just right when shepherd describes a place right in that string of memories as he's driving away you know it's all of these images of of New York in the sixties seven days %HESITATION it's like a silent movie kind
00:41:50of flowing in and of course those memories %HESITATION shepherds or were shepherds memories as well yeah tourists and there's a blurring there because I think we're supposed to see that we're supposed to understand that these were also shepherds memories yeah I think he you know I think he's
00:42:06very I want to think that he is very open to the reader blurring those two I mean the the last book of his I read the one inside just so many of the stories there are huge so closely to at least the biography that we know and the
00:42:23locations that we know where he lived and %HESITATION he liberates himself with fiction but I think it I think it's okay to feel like we're being told some version of something that happened in shepherd's life which is you know I think %HESITATION I I wanna be allowed to
00:42:40think of him as this %HESITATION has the same guy is %HESITATION some kind a combination of the guy in days of heaven and the guy in the right stuff and %HESITATION just as a side note I said I just saw the right stuff again recently which just holds
00:42:57up it's such an incredible movie it's %HESITATION one of the great American films of all time and %HESITATION it deserves to be seen in recent N. reassessed and hold up I think it's %HESITATION and it's so odd oddly structured in so many ways it's not traditional in anyway
00:43:16it's so long it's just one of my favorite films and I think it's a top ten ever it also speaks to shepherd sort of cross Shaner abilities unity be he could practicable form he could write screenplays he could write plays and he could write prose and you know
00:43:34having written dozens of place hi fi friend it's sort of interesting that in his last years he was writing fiction primarily in on his he he didn't publish a novel until the last year of his life in that year he published two years so yeah I mean I
00:43:51wonder why why that was his serve form of choice at the end I wonder too I think it it's you know putting on a play I think is a really it's a very emotionally %HESITATION draining experience it's a lot of work for the play right if they want
00:44:08to see it through through rehearsals and there's something so kind of you know being alone and being able to write a novel of loan wherever you are is %HESITATION definitely favors somebody that are doesn't wanna hue to a schedule an to sort of get up and be responsible
00:44:27for a bunch of actors and technicians and working with a bunch of the I think that those books are so personal what he wrote later in his life he went back so far you know %HESITATION some of the memories that are in those books and not that those
00:44:43stories could have come out in in in the form of a play but I think that there's something sort of more immediate and are less reliant I guess on a on a collective to bring to fruition you know when you write a book it's just you know and
00:44:57%HESITATION you don't have to ask %HESITATION discuss %HESITATION compromise or anything %HESITATION it's just it's a completely unmediated an unfiltered and %HESITATION for better for worse you know and he was thinking very specifically about his own life and and I mean you also do feel that here especially
00:45:15with that stream of of memories I also in preparing for the podcast found out the shepherd did drive through normal Illinois and in early two thousand nine it really made me wonder if he hadn't encountered a Holiday Inn here he could he gotta pulled over down right yeah
00:45:36down Bloomington normal %HESITATION yeah I remember that because I've been on that highway I %HESITATION I got pulled over the one time I really got pulled over for going really fast was a little further south %HESITATION in Illinois down there the tip now southern Illinois and %HESITATION and
00:45:53only time I was ever really busted for like thirty five miles over but these roads are you don't see a soul for hours in some parts of in Aurora Illinois so %HESITATION you cannot really loose track of where you are how fast you're going there it's just farms
00:46:11and so %HESITATION I remember %HESITATION reading about that and thinking you don't hear too many guys in there I don't know how old he would have been then but maybe seventy %HESITATION Calgary being with a pen in his early to mid sixties I think probably the same age
00:46:30as Stuart I know right it's %HESITATION you don't want to presume to many things but %HESITATION obviously he often knows what he's talking about I want to go back to that to that motel lobby he has his encounter with Becky she goes up to her room and they
00:46:47say goodbye and then he he says %HESITATION it says you know if he had a gun he would shoot up the whole lobby wants to shoot up the TV's the coffee table the magazines where does that response come from what is it is it anger over what Becky's
00:47:02had to suffer that he's feeling sympathy for is it just feeling I don't know contained kannst constrained in some way here I am I think Elvis was mentioned earlier %HESITATION so you think of Elvis shooting his TV I think it's a it's a uniquely American form of expression
00:47:24when a man doesn't know how to say is UP thing he thinks of a gun and it's it's a really a true and incredibly tragic fact of our lives that it is a form of speech I know %HESITATION xenon that that's just as true as anything that anyone's
00:47:45ever written that a guy in that situation doesn't know what he wants does know how to express himself is is feeling like he doesn't have the answer the answer has not arrived to him yet it'll arrive later he's driving through a blizzard but for that moment does nobody
00:48:02wants doesn't know if he were to say to this woman if he can't fix what she's going through and he wants to be able to fix it and that sort of sense of powerlessness is it's almost inevitable that he's gonna have visions of violence and %HESITATION and the
00:48:21way to express it is to shoot up the place %HESITATION you know that's another thing %HESITATION that shepherd just got in now that he %HESITATION he understood so well I don't know if there are men in other parts of the world that think the same way but I
00:48:39do know that that's how a vast swath of American men think is when I can't find an answer and I can't fix the problem %HESITATION navy a gun maybe I can express it this way then something strange happens on the drive he goes out in his car he
00:48:58had he sees Becky sort of appears in front of him with a halo of snow around her head in this kind of almost hallucination he then sees all of these memories from the past turns around he comes across this jackknife tractor trailer which has to be an image
00:49:18of that death you know there's no sign of the driver and he chooses in a sense chooses life by going back maybe that's too simplistic way of reading and no that's exactly it well well put you know yeah that's he's the guy in the truck for sure there's
00:49:36no there's no one else so that's what he could be if he went off and continued on his own that night or at all he could be that calm rack on the side of the road because what are you doing you're driving off into the White blinding nothingness
00:49:53right so it's almost like that's to go really far %HESITATION with this is easy ready to drive off into eternity or is he gonna share %HESITATION comforts human comforts for one more night you know or at least turn around and pause thank you know perilous to kind of
00:50:15turn around and choose a different way because he was heading south you know in a blizzard with no destination really that we know of %HESITATION so well or no we we don't know who he's going to see you know it's not like he's going to a home or
00:50:32is daughters Homer sons home or whatever he's going out into into nothing and so %HESITATION get choosing to come around and be humble and %HESITATION and asked for a place to stay in make that step and be a little bit vulnerable and a little bit needing of somebody
00:50:54and %HESITATION to take a risk you know and and certainly getting himself into a mass you know him with a woman who has so much else to worry about and think about but at the very least %HESITATION a each have somebody to lean on %HESITATION for night there's
00:51:12a lot going on in in %HESITATION what seems to be a %HESITATION otherwise %HESITATION you know %HESITATION deceptively deceptively straightforward yeah you know I mean who would think to write a story about a Holiday Inn lobby you know like what but you know %HESITATION it ultimately is a
00:51:31%HESITATION if it does it's such a hopeful story in the end in a way it even though and there's some %HESITATION tough subject matter it has a warmth about it and I'm kind of a a glow about I find it incredibly poignant at the end because it you
00:51:49know he has that line earlier on Marie says he's he's finally broken all connections without even really wanting to and then at the very end he you know he asks to see if you can call Becky and leshondra says well let me get you connected and just I
00:52:05feel those two uses of that word resonating you now that he's he's he lost those connections but now maybe he's gonna make one make one %HESITATION restore an old one yeah could find out like that see that one we leave him weeping on the phone but what what
00:52:26do you think happens next is he going to stay the night is he going to stay longer is he going to wake up feeling awkward and sneak out at five in the morning I'm hi you know I think he's absolutely gonna stay you know he's so struck by
00:52:44the simple innocence of her voice that he breaks open and everything that he's been sort of holding back you know instead of expressing himself with %HESITATION with violence see thankfully finds this other way too because she is going to give them a home at lease for night and
00:53:07%HESITATION the hardness of the world is kind and he kind of %HESITATION countered for night and %HESITATION and I think he's just so grateful to be given %HESITATION another chance and %HESITATION what happens after that night I don't know I I I want to think that it will
00:53:24be a %HESITATION a good thing for both of us for a short time you know assault on times a I want to believe that they all they need is a little bit of mercy and tenderness for a night or two and %HESITATION and then they have to get
00:53:41power back on to whatever is next especially for her we assume he has trouble in his past but we know that she has trouble in her present and %HESITATION and a lot to do and %HESITATION yeah maybe that's act too in a coma searching for her husband and
00:54:02her kids that's why I think I come away with it with a I think such a warm feeling I think it just feels like mercy feel for this guy he %HESITATION a guy who's sixty five or seventy in you know it would be tough a thing to be
00:54:20I feel so alone at that age I don't think we will anonymous want to feel that I don't think we presume that we will I know you want him to be given a some kind of life line and %HESITATION I think it's a hard one and well earned
00:54:38and here that gives us just enough feeling that he's a make it doesn't doesn't leave his dog out in the parking lot yeah what if there were no dog policy what's going to happen Saunders gonna have to have mercy to maybe he's got a service dog permit or
00:54:58something like that to think about the dog to what better way to ruin a story right to be like what about the dog in the ticket where's the dog gonna be and and eleven of food for the dog and as the dog again the way if they're trying
00:55:11to get romantic and you know just %HESITATION it's the the best way to workshop the story into the ground right that's the beauty of the story you left that off the page yeah yeah no he always knew what not to say right I think %HESITATION needn't be said
00:55:30I love that thanks for letting me do this thank you so much for doing it Sam Shepard who died last year at age seventy three was the author of more than fifty place including a lie of the mind true west fool for love and buried child which won
00:55:48the Pulitzer Prize for drama also published several books of fiction including the story collection day out of days and the novel the one inside Dave Eggers is the founder of the publishing house and literary journal Mike Sweeney's and a co founder of a twenty six Valencia a youth
00:56:04literacy center voice of witness human rights focused oral history series and scholar match which connects donors with students in financial need the author of twelve books including the novels heroes of the frontier the circle in the wild things a new novel the parade will be published in March
00:56:22you can download more than a hundred and thirty previous episodes of The New Yorker fiction podcast including one in which Dave Eggers reach Roddy Doyle story pull fighting subscribe to the podcast for free in the apple podcast section of the iTunes store on the writer's voice podcast you
00:56:36can hear short stories from the magazine read by their authors you can find the writer's voice another New York podcasts on your podcast at tell us what you thought of this program on our Facebook page parade and review as an apple podcasts on iTunes New York affection podcast
00:56:51is produced by Jill to buy off of New Yorker dot com I'm Deborah treatment thanks for listening

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