Jim Shepard, "Classical Scenes of Farewell"

Etienne recounts his life under the employ of a psychopathic lord in 1430s France.

(from McSweeney’s, issue 27)

But even before he chose to sweep back for me the curtain on the full extent of his ferocity, I knew myself to be already standing outside the ring of salvation, having failed so signally as a neighbor and a brother and a Christian and a son.

I’ve always been fond of Shepard’s eclectic tastes for unexpected settings, characters and plots, but I don’t believe I’ve ever been as wowed by his skills for the language as I am right now. “Classical Scenes of Farewell” is breathtakingly told, each word so smartly placed as to seem inevitable. Some sentences invited me to re-read them and appreciate their solitary beauty as well as their purpose within the larger machine. And Shepard seems to take particular delight in describing ugliness with equal parts of bluntness and poetry. Definitely recommended.

3 thoughts on “Jim Shepard, "Classical Scenes of Farewell"

  1. Movieram

    Like you, I enjoy the myriad of settings in which Jim Shepard tells his stories.

    My favorite Shepard tale is included in The Best American Short Stories 1994 (Tobias Wolff, guest editor). It’s called “Batting Against Castro”, takes place in 1950s Cuba, and is one of the funniest short stories that I’ve ever encountered. Shepard’s first-person narrator, a minor league baseball player, is a gem.

    I will try to find this story. Thanks!

  2. Nathan

    “Classical Scenes of Farewell” has the best ending paragraph of anything I have ever read — no exaggeration. It is evocative, haunting, and beautiful.


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