JEAN SHEPHERD: Shep’s PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
What follows is the Publishers Weekly on-line review of the book. One could not hope for a better review! I’m very pleased and proud regarding the comments made in the review. By my inter-line comments I’m just attempting to explain a bit more that a reviewer could not fit into length constraints, and to expand more of what I hope my”editing” contributes to the whole. [Bracketed comments in bold are mine.]
Shep’s Army: Bummers, Blisters, & Boondoggles
Jean Shepherd, edited by Eugene B. Bergmann. Opus (Hal Leonard, dist.),
$14.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-62316-012-8
Editor Bergmann attempts with much success [Thank you, reviewer.] to simulate a posthumous memoir of author, comedian, and radio personality Jean Shepherd’s army years. [I refer to the book not as a memoir–which it certainly is also–but as short stories arranged into a rough chronological sequence that works in a way that approximates a coming-of-age-novel of Shepherd’s army experiences. In my organization of Shep’s army stories, the first part, called YOU’RE IN THE ARMY NOW, Shepherd is in a sense born into this strange military existence. The Camp Crowder Part is his childhood education into the army’s Signal Corps. In that regard, note the comment by Shep in the book’s story, “Service Club Virtuoso.” He says, “…you never completely expunge the roots of your childhood–which I spent in Camp Crowder.”] Utilizing years of broadcasts and taking advantage of multiple retellings of the same events, Bergmann has assembled a surprisingly unified and confident account of oppressive years spent in the army’s Signal Corps from 1942 to 1944, with factual commentary between chapters providing context. [My commentaries between Parts do indeed provide context in a way that I hope emphasizes the book’s organized “Parts” into 1) Initiation–birth– into the army world; 2) early education–childhood in Camp Crowder; 3) Post-early-education-skills–radar knowledge and other adult abilities used in Florida’s Camp Murphy environs; 4) Additional experiences typical of soldier-life in the military and then final army days in which he can observe it all with a kind of educated, adult perspective–such as a more objective and even sympathetic view of the enemy–as POWs; 5) Remembering it all as a civilian, in a kind of “retirement” from it: “Thank God I ain’t in the army!”] Shepherd was never shipped to a warzone; thus the incidents recounted mostly concern the accommodations at a series of stateside camps, the cruelty of the fellow soldiers, and the sometimes Kafka-esque bureaucracy. His service was not without the defiance of death, and seems to have damaged both Shepherd and his compatriots; the pessimistic tone may surprise fans. [There may indeed be a pessimistic tone in some sections, but Shep’s humorous take on most everything is also one of the book’s constants.] The collection is otherwise a compliment to Shepherd’s usual storytelling and the exaggerated melodrama of his signature narration style, with a number of laugh-out-loud moments in a presentation that, against the odds, captures the energy of an oral telling. [Thank you for that, reviewer. I do believe that I’ve kept close to Shep’s own oral presentation with the help of such mechanics on my part as knowing where best to provide sentence stops, exclamation marks, ellipses, and other useful paraphernalia that assist the reader, who unavoidably lacks Shep’s masterful oral delivery. The back of the book, however, does include references on how to find Shepherd’s spoken stories transcribed in the book.]
Again, thank you, reviewer, for your acute perceptions and kinds words.