A Vision of Hell – Trapped in a Cracker Barrel Restaurant

‘Day Out of Days’  by Sam Shepard  – stories (2010)

One of the stories in Sam Shepard’s new book ‘Day Out of Days’ is about a man trapped in a Cracker Barrel Restaurant all night having to listen to Shania Twain songs on an endless loop.  This vision  closely fits my personal picture of hell.  Trapped in the potpourri infested aisles of kitschy merchandise for sale including hand-stitched samplers of home-grown wisdom, horehound licorice lozenges, and other fake rural nostalgia-inducing items.  I can think of several artists much more nauseating than Shania Twain to listen to on an endless loop, but Twain will do.

‘Day Out of Days’  is a book of stories  of a man looking back on his past more than forty years from his high school days.  The book is divided up into about one hundred and twenty five sections, many less than a half page long, others up to fourteen pages long.  Many are memories called up by highways all over the west and south and midwest of the United States.  These vignettes evoke in striking detail different parts of the United States.  Some evoke old girlfriends or other old friends from more than forty years ago. 

What a career / life Sam Shepard has had. From off off Broadway actor/writer/director in the Sixties to renowned playwright in the Seventies to Academy Award winning leading actor in the Eighties to Hollywood director and short story writer.

Here is one of these sections from the book in its entirety.

    They say, these days, standing out on the rim of the Grand Canyon, the brightest lights in the night sky are not the stars in the heavens but the glow from casino neon in Las Vegas – one hundred and seventy five miles away.

Many of these pieces are short, hardly more than fragments rather than complete stories.  In a way, I prefer Shepard’s previous book ‘Great Dream of Heaven’, because it consisted of fully-developed stories.  But the very short vignettes in this book always held my interest.  Many relate to famous people such as Hank Williams, Fats Domino, Casey Jones, or Man O’ War, the famous racing horse.  One of the nice things about ‘Day Out of Days’ is its way of moving on, never getting tied to one scene or person for too long.    Another feature of the book I liked was the rich variety of styles and subjects for the many sections of the book.  At the same time, they all blended together into a compeling whole.

3 responses to this post.

  1. […] A Vision of Hell – Trapped in a Cracker Barrel Restaurant « Tony's … […]


  2. That sort of variety can be engaging if well done BUT oh dear, I do hope it’s stars you see from the Grand Canyon. I would hate to think I had been dreaming my dreams on the Neon Lights of Vegas when I was there!


    • Hi Whisperinggums,
      I’m writing this from San Francisco; I’m not sure this is one of the US cities you’ve seen or not. I know you spent a lot of time in the LA area. Today we rode across the Golden Gate Bridge on our bicycles. Having a great time, and will be returning to Minneapolis on Sunday. A couple of days ago we went to the famous SF bookstore City Lights which is where many of the Beats hanged out.


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