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 oneÂ increasingly practiced body snatcher'sÂ 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.Â
Looking forward to Melville's The Confidence-Man and beyond that to William Burroughsâs Naked Lunch, this strange and compelling story is a penetrating critique of American life and values as well asÂ a crucial addition to the canon of American literature.
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