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SHEPPARD LEE, 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.
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.