Sheppard Lee, Written by Himself by Robert Montgomery Bird
(New York Review Books Classics)

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Synopsis

Originally published in 1836.

Sheppard Lee, Written By Himself is a work of dark satire from the early years of the American Republic. Published as an autobiography and praised by Edgar Allan Poe, this is the story of a young idler who goes in search of buried treasure and finds instead the power to transfer his soul into other men's bodies. What follows is one increasingly practiced body snatcher's picaresque journey through early American pursuits of happiness, as each new form Sheppard Lee assumes disappoints him anew while making him want more and more. When Lee's metempsychosis draws him into the marriage market, the money market, and the slave market, Bird's fable of American upward mobility takes a more sinister turn. Lee learns that everything in America, even virtue and vice, are interchangeable; everything is an object and has its price. 
 
Looking forward to Melville's The Confidence-Man and beyond that to William Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, this strange and compelling story is a penetrating critique of American life and values as well as a crucial addition to the canon of American literature.
 

About Robert Montgomery Bird

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Robert Montgomery Bird (1803-1854) was born in Delaware and raised in Philadelphia. He attended the University of Pennsylvania and graduated from its medical school in 1824. After practicing medicine for only a year, he started writing, eventually becoming the editor of American Monthly Magazine. He is best known for his plays The Gladiator and The Broker of Bogota and his novels Calavar, The Infidel, and Nick of the Woods.Christopher Looby holds an M.A. in American literature and history from Washington University and a Ph.D. from Columbia University. A former associate editor for The Library of America, he currently teaches English at UCLA.
 
Published January 15, 2008 by NYRB Classics. 472 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Humor & Entertainment. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Sheppard Lee, Written by Himself

Publishers Weekly

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Arriving South a few jumps later, Lee becomes Nigger Tom, a body he soon exigently escapes, only to pick a body that suffers from ""dyspepsy."" From there, Lee explores the animal world (a dog), the inanimate (a coffee pot), and the dubiously historical (a French emperor).

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The New York Review of Books

Robert Montgomery Bird’s Sheppard Lee is a scathingly humorous and utterly original novel out of Andrew Jackson’s America, the story of an incorrigible loafer who inadvertently discovers the power to project his soul into dying men’s bodies and to take over their lives.

Jan 15 2008 | Read Full Review of Sheppard Lee, Written by Hims...

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