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JEAN SHEPHERD–his New Year’s resolutions

Sometimes Shep is criticized–even by his fans–for some of the habits that he seems to enjoy immensely. He must imagine that his fans enjoy his comments and actions as much as he does. This is mainly true–I can’t think of anything he does that I don’t like. He chose January 1, 1975 to ironically list his New Year’s resolutions, making a straight-faced joke out of the occasion. The list, at the same time, results in a nice catalog of some aspects of his idiosyncratic radio style. The following, from that broadcast, is a partial list from Jim Clavin’s http://www.flicklives.com website.

He will stop making snide remarks.

He will practice liking Victor Borge, laughing at Phyllis Diller and Don Rickles, and loving Zsa Zsa Gabor.

He will erase his ling-term memory that will keep him out of trouble when people contradict themselves, and he wants a button-activated memory-eraser.

He will work hard to increase his intolerance and hate, as being a loving human being never pays off.

He will learn to respect critics because they’re becoming more important than what they criticize.

He is going to work hard on his pragmatism so he can get away with things.

He will start giving the time continually on his show.

He will do interviews.

He will install phones and answer each call that comes into his show.

He will play popular records.

He will give live commercials with  sincerity in his voice.

He will say good things about radio.

He will work on proper gratitude and walk respectfully.

He will learn to respect his “betters.”

He will throw out his kazoo, jews harp, and nose flute.

He will no longer sing ridiculous songs.

He will avoid mentioning any cultural differences between the Midwest and the East.

He will pretend he enjoys Broadway musicals.

He sings “The Bear Missed the Train” one last time and throws out his instruments. He closes with several snide remarks. Fortunately, no matter how much he was criticized, he never kept his New Year’s resolutions–which were just a joke anyway.

I think I may have made a couple of resolutions many decades ago, but I can’t remember that I kept any of them. I have never regretted my lack of resolution–have you?–eb

HAPPY NEW YEAR

eb

___________________________________________________

JEAN SHEPHERD A CHRISTMAS STORY Part 5 hangers on


 hammond brochure          hammond map sites

Hammond, Indiana’s brochure,

which includes a map and the comment below from yours truly:

“Jean Shepherd talked and wrote a lot about Hammond. He might sometimes disparage the place, but in his heart and mind the tribulations and joys of his childhood were inseparable from his hometown. Though he might attempt to disguise some connections, he kept letting them sneak in. Two examples. The town he wrote about called “Hohman” he named after the street of that name in Hammond. In the movie A Christmas Story Shepherd’s fictional character, Ralphie, wants a BB gun as he also did in the earlier published version originally titled “Duel in the Snow or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid,” and we know that Jean Shepherd grew up on Hammond’s Cleveland Street. In some undeniable, enigmatic way, Jean Shepherd was the Cleveland Street Kid. He never got Hammond out of his creative world or out of his blood.”

__________________________

Hammond, Indiana and Cleveland, Ohio’s A CHRISTMAS STORY HOUSE

do lots of good, fun things regarding the movie.

 Hammond commemorated this 2013 permanent statue,

with Scott Schwartz, who played the original “Flick,” looking on:

TALK-AJ-CHRISTMAS-STORY-STATUE

(Speak up, Flick, whatsa matter, pole got yer tongue?)

______________________________

A CHRISTMAS STORY behind-the-scenes book is good.

A CHRISTMAS STORY the musical is good.

leglamp dance ACS musical

(I have not seen the straight play based on the movie,

based on Shep’s stories published in books,

reprinted from the stories in Playboy,

based on Shepherd’s improvised stories told on the radio,

so I won’t comment on it.)

ACS stage

However, the playwright Philip Grecian says that Shep

insisted that  the narrator (Shepherd’s narrative part) be included.

The scene shows “Shep” narrating soap-in-mouth scene from

Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Winnipeg, Canada.

_______

A CHRISTMAS STORY the movie is so good

it cannot be smothered to death by the glut of ever-proliferating

spin-off merchandise.

There are photos from the film on Christmas tree balls and T-shirts,

innumerable little 3-D depictions of scenes from the movie,

Talking action figures and bobble heads of the cast,

cookie cutters, etc.

________________

Right before Christmas, when I opened up Tetris to give a rest to my Shep obsession,

here’s what I got on-screen:

ACS on Tetris

__________

Nehi legs

Above, the original inspiration

upon which Shepherd undoubtedly

based his leg lamp.

NEHI =”Knee-high.” (Get it?)

____________

Leg-lamp-christmas-story

YES! I love it!

___________

A few lesser hangers

Leg-Lamp-handle-Mug

Leg lamp stocking Christmas Story

Christmas Story costumes

Above, a mug, and a stocking to be hung by the chimney with care,

and a couple o’ da udder thingmajigs.

A large, blow-up-to-put-on-your-lawn leg-thing

seems no longer available–boo hoo!

But see a photo of the 6-foot high hyperbolic inflatable

lawn ornament below. Maybe the ultimate

“slob art” interpretation of “the old man’s”

major slob art award.

ACS leg for lawn

Some of the spin-offs are cute and fine, many are not–

there are hundreds to choose from!

In our house we display a desk-size leg lamp all year around.

There are a number of Christmas cards using ACS material,

including the one I got a while back.

________________

________________

Somebody posted the following a couple of years ago, made with

those little yellow, marshmallow candies called “Peeps.”

“IT’S A MAJOR PEEP AWARD”

peeps ACS lamp

________________

________________

Below, our star and benefactor, who must be chuckling

endlessly, up there at the North Pole.

1991-12-14_022_bozo_shep

JEAN SHEPHERD

in TV’s “A Bozo Christmas,” 12/14/1991.

It would be interesting to know

why Shep chose to do this.

(courtesy of Jim Clavin)

____________________

This is the last of this series on A CHRISTMAS STORY.

Look for special New Years Eve post on 12/31.

________________________________________________

JEAN SHEPHERD–Christmas gifts to me

I had a busy Shep-day last week.

I took the LIRR to Manhattan to be interviewed about Shepherd by the “Here and Now” show commentators of NPR in Boston. NPR has New York City studios on 42nd Street. One sits in a little room with a microphone and various electronic equipment, one dons earphones and looks through the window at an engineer. In August the voice in my ears was that of broadcaster Scott Simon in D. C. interviewing me about SHEP’S ARMY. Last week the voice in my ear was Jeremy Hobson from Boston and we were discussing Shep’s career and persona. I thought it went well, and I await word as to when it’ll be broadcast and can be heard on the internet).

On the Manhattan trip I also hoped to be able to photograph at the Madison Square Garden theater, an A CHRISTMAS STORY poster I’d seen on the facade of the theater where it played last year. There was a close-up of Dan Lauria playing Shepherd and the words THE JEAN SHEPHERD SHOW, HOME OF THE GREATEST STORIES EVER TOLD. Waiting for the train in I encountered an ad the size of a folded train schedule (and I encountered a slightly larger one by the theater):

ACS musical ads

The theater at Penn Station had no posters at all, so now my hopes rest on a response from Shep (Dan Lauria), to whom I wrote, c/o the theater, explaining my desire for an image of the poster.

_______________

Meanwhile, back home, I’d received a Google alert for Shep and found that it directed me to a great review of SHEP’S ARMY by Tom Feran of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, who in 2005 had written a really complementary review of my EXCELSIOR, YOU FATHEAD! He’s obviously a Shep fan from way back, in addition to being a perceptive critic (I’m delighted to opine.) Here’s the Shep’s Army review:

Jean Shepherd’s widest fame today may be as the writer, narrator and cameo actor of “A Christmas Story,” the movie that came relatively late in his career, 30 years ago.

Fans earlier knew him as the writer of stories (some of which were the foundation of the film), host of several public-TV series and hugely influential radio monologist with a cult-like following.

Shepherd, who died in 1999, came to dismiss the radio work, preferring to be recognized for his writing. But the shows are responsible for his first new collection of stories in 30 years, thanks to Eugene Bergmann, author of the 2005 biography “Excelsior, You Fathead! The Art and Enigma of Jean Shepherd.”

Bergmann smartly edited and organized about 30 transcribed stories, and contributes useful notes and an introduction for “Shep’s Army: Bummers, Blisters, and Boondoggles” (Opus Books, 256 pp., $14.95). He thinks it can reasonably be deemed “Shep’s Army Life Novel.”

Shep would approve. He insisted his story collections were novels and fiction, though his work is often called autobiographical, because he liked writing in the immediacy of first person, and sometimes called nostalgia, because of the way his kid stories — like the ones in “A Christmas Story” — so sharply drew the past.

He’s more accurately called a humorist, especially for his gifts of comic description and hyperbole, but he saw himself as a realist describing the way things really are and the way people really live. More than his kid stories, the army tales show that.

Shepherd, who was secretive about details of his life, served in the Army from 1942 to 1944, all of it stateside. The tales he created from the experience — unless he really was “the only registered Druid in the history of the contemporary army” — are inevitably funny, but darker and more adult. We hear him talking about boredom, terror, confusion, cruelty and, off-handedly, death.

“Talking” is the word. His wildly expressive voice is almost audible in the stories, all told on the New York AM station WOR between 1963 and 1976.

While Shepherd would have labored to make them a book — he once said that simply transcribing spoken stories into print “is the last thing you can do” — Bergmann’s gentle editing retains his style.

“Shep’s Army” is probably not the best introduction to Shepherd’s writing for the curious drawn by “A Christmas Story.” But for his established fans — readers or listeners — it will rate as a welcome gift. Here’s hoping Bergmann has more. 

[I emailed him that indeed, I do have more! He responded, in part: “The book was really a pleasure to read. Having written several “as told to” books, I know well the difficulties and pitfalls of translating spoken words, which only increased my appreciation. You did wonderful work, just masterly, and it’s great news that we can look forward to more.” He also sent me a photo of Downtown Cleveland (Terminal Tower, overlooking Public Square) decked out in all its Christmas-and-Leg-Lamp glory!]

leglamp on building side, ClevelandSing along, and as Pogo would warble,

“Deck us all with Boston Charlie,

Fa la la la la–la la la la!

______________________________________________________________

JEAN SHEPHERD–Christmas Cards. etc.

On Christmas Eve of 1964, Jean Shepherd, on his nightly program, commented that Christmas cards reflect the times. In part, he said:

I noticed in the last few years there was a rise in the put-down Christmas card–the hip Christmas card. In fact, in many cases, the sexual Christmas card.

He said that he felt that the current Christmas reflected a change, that people consciously or unconsciously choose the kind of card they do as a reflection of the current scene in their society. He noted that there had been a momentous event last year  (the JFK assassination, obviously) and that it had probably changed some peoples’ attitudes toward the kind of card they would buy.

He said that in many ways, because Christmas is a far-deeper holiday than most people would concede–he is expressing something very important about his world. Shepherd comments that in the future anthropologists would be studying Christmas cards as a very important means of gauging attitudes and prevailing winds of any given time. 

He describes some of his collection of 50 or 60 Christmas cards from about the year 1900, and that they have written messages on the back. The cards are different in how they express peoples’ attitudes toward emotions, passions.

__________

Indeed, in recent years, cards are very different from what anyone would have sent

around 1900. For example, there are all the funny cards–

just look at the one I got recently, based on the movie A CHRISTMAS STORY:

ACS Christmas card

Its inside comment is:

HOPE YOUR HOLIDAYS ARE A BLAST

Somehow it does not convey the joy of seeing Jesus in a manger

or even a nice Currier and Ives winter scene.

currier & ives print

In recent years many people write family letters and make copies, especially to send at Christmas time to inform friends and family as to what has been happening to them since last Christmas. Even with letter writing, telephoning, email, etc, much does not get told about our daily lives, and these multiple copies of family news is a modern, convenient way to convey the same basic info to many people. Here’s our current letter:

Christmas letter 2013

Shepherd, as he does from time to time, comments that his listeners

should have better things to do than

listen to him (especially on Christmas Eve):

I realize that not many people are listening, and I advise you not to listen. Why don’t you look out of the window. Why don’t you walk in the street. Why don’t you, really–I mean it–why don’t you walk up and down Fifth Avenue a little bit. Why don’t you get out just this once in the world and observe the stars. If there are no stars, observe the sky. That will suffice. It’s still out there. Even if it’s gray and tumbling. It is there.

He seems to be reflecting on the assassination again as he comments on what had happened just before last Christmas (November of 1963). He comments that it takes a while for a whole new realization of reality to be reflected in attitudes (and in the Christmas cards we choose to send). He is giving us his little sermon that we can absorb as we sit and listen to our maroon plastic Zenith AM/FM radio with the big simulated gold dial: Don’t just sit with your ear and psyche and soul wired to a radio–especially on Christmas Eve. It is Christmas Eve and we are receiving the Word from our unordained but Truth-giving Teacher. Remember, reflect, understand, appreciate all there is in your life, your world–go out, look up toward the stars, even if they are now clouded over and the world is gray and tumbling.

_____________

shep. leigh christmas card

Jean Shepherd and Leigh Brown Christmas card

with mouse drawing by Shepherd.

(Courtesy of Laurie and Herb Squire)

_____________________________________________________

JEAN SHEPHERD-A CHRISTMAS STORY Part 4, the musical

A CHRISTMAS STORY—Facing the Music—

REVIEW BY EUGENE B. BERGMANN

ACS musical playbill

I attended the Broadway opening of “A Christmas Story—The Musical” (November 19, 2012) with some trepidation. (Shep-heir Irwin Zwilling had given me the ticket and the invite to the after-event party at the “Lucky Strike Lanes”—a grand affair!) What would they do to Jean Shepherd and the movie?  Not to worry—they did great!

On arrival I saw on the theater façade, along with a few other large, framed photos, one of Dan Lauria as Shepherd, and what does the caption to the photo say?

“The Jean Shepherd Show,

Home of the Greatest Stories Ever Told.”

_____________________________

dan lauria in ACS

Dan Lauria as Shep—this is NOT

The image  in the theater’s poster.

  Ah, yes! This definitely boded well for those of us Shep acolytes who feared that the musical would not sufficiently acknowledge our hero. The Playbill for the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, in its “CAST (in order of appearance) list Jean Shepherd (Dan Lauria), first.

acs scenes 1

After the short overture, with curtain still down, the prologue begins: “A street corner outside radio station WOR, New York City/the radio studio desk—Christmas Eve, several years ago.” There is Jean Shepherd who speaks to us, introducing the play. He is seated at a microphone that has on it “WOR,” and he indicates that he is telling the entire story of the musical at hand.

“Shepherd” appears very frequently as the person we in the audience see but the players in the story do not. He roves in and out among the people and the sets, observing the scene and making comments.  This is all handled well, and is a great tribute to Shepherd, especially when you realize that the entire production could have negated his presence entirely—to its detriment.  (In the movie, you hear his voice throughout, but, if you don’t know, or haven’t paid attention to the opening credits, you might not even realize that Shepherd is the omnipresent creator. In the musical, Lauria/Shep is present and accounted for.)

acs scenes 2

At the party afterward, Mr. Zwilling told me that Dan Lauria had asked him for help in realizing the Shepherd character.  I didn’t have the opportunity to ask him in what way he assisted.  I imagine that giving Lauria a lot of Shep audios of radio shows would have done it. (I subsequently read that Lauria said that he and his dad had listened to Shep when he was a kid.)

The musical follows the movie quite well, although not slavishly, diverting where it’s not important or where a visualization on stage might not be worth it.  The sets are very good and flexible, in a well-orchestrated, stylized fashion, moving back and forth, up and down, as required to change the scene (indoors as in the house, and outside for the flick/flagpole scene, etc.).  I enjoyed the way the sets performed and I enjoyed the script and acting a lot.  The dance and other musical numbers were very entertaining—all you could ask for.  The audience loved it all.

leglamp dance ACS musical

Highly worthwhile.  All the professional reviewers (with a few who had

minor negative comments I don’t agree with) liked it too.  WOW!

____________________________________________________________

JEAN SHEPHERD and A Christmas Story Part 3

ChristmasStoryCoverRGB-240x300

More of my foreword to the book:

My family and I watch bits and pieces of the Christmas classic each year between other holiday activities, maybe once or twice sitting through the whole thing, knowing what comes next, enjoying it and laughing as if seeing it for the first time, right down to the film’s final scenes. Ralphie and kid brother each happily in bed with his favorite present, and the parents sharing an affectionate moment, scenes that might well have been mandated by the film studio: nobody wants to see a family movie about Christmas, our happiest season, end under an anti-nostalgic cloud. On our TV screen, left on for most of the day, A Christmas Story will start anew in a moment, almost endlessly, during that twenty-four hour orgy of delight, and it will be there next Christmas Eve again when we participate in our pleasurable ritual, our reaffirmation of our happy past and hopes for the future. We, my family along with millions of others, smile contentedly and laugh all over again — all is right with the world. That’s entertainment….

To repeat the irony that’s symptomatic of Jean Shepherd’s career, most people who love the film don’t even know who he is. Shepherd’s most ardent fans consider his decades of radio work to be his supreme achievement, and they also appreciate A Christmas Story as a worthy masterpiece — it not only comments with humor on human experience, but it is sublime, chock-full of life’s petty afflictions and heartwarming joys. Thankfully, Caseen Gaines’ book, while giving us the lowdown on the making of the film, and all that surrounds it, will also increase knowledge of that insufficiently recognized American genius, Jean Parker Shepherd.

classic shep imageJean Parker Shepherd

Even without my extensive foreword, this book has far more about

Jean Shepherd than even the most enthusiastic fan could have hoped for.

Excelsior, Caseen Gaines!

_____________________________________

Breaking the narrative barrier in A Christmas Story

In watching most movies  the audience suspends disbelief that they are looking at flat, moving images on a screen–they somehow, in some sense, accept it all as “real.”

We’re all familiar with the unusual narrative strategy in ACS, in which Shepherd narrates the entire movie from the perspective of Ralphie as an adult remembering and describing the action that took place one Christmas season. Shepherd/narrator here is an artificial construct that somehow changes our normal perception of  that flat screen–he convinces us that the moving images are his vision of what happened when he was a kid. We don’t even give it a second thought.

We’re drawn into his narrative technique, accepting its unusualness as our reality for this movie, beginning to end. And then there is one moment where, having accepted the reality Shepherd has us wrapped up in, it’s broken by another artificiality. It’s a moment we also seem to totally accept and participate in–we’re drawn into the action by Ralphie (in our perception, he’s a-real-person-within-the-screen’s movie-world). When he tells his mother that not the BB gun, but a falling icicle, broke his glasses and nicked him so close to his eye, she’s convinced–and he looks straight at us, the audience, and smiles at us conspiratorially as Shepherd the narrator whispers, “I had pulled it off!”  A character in a movie looks at the audience, drawing us into the movie’s world? (Sorta like the TV sitcom where George Burns, as he frequently did a bit in front of a theater curtain before the main story starts–talks to the audience in that theater which we’re shown, and which makes his monolog more believable–and he’s mainly talking to us, the audience at home watching  it on our television.) The scene with Ralphie does not give us this rationale for believing this break in the screen’s convention.

ACS Ralphie smiles at us

“I HAD PULLED IT OFF!

It works! We’re not even aware of the trickery!

Maybe because we’re already so much a part of the movie-world Ralphie is in.

We (Ralphie and us) love having put one over on mom!

_____________________________________________________________

JEAN SHEPHERD and A Christmas Story Part 2

ChristmasStoryCoverRGB-240x300Continuing here is more from my foreword to the book.

I describe all the funny scenes in the movie

that end in minor disasters,

concluding with the sneaky inclusion of the “Golden Age” sign:

Ralphie, with loaded gun in hand, is the personification of “armed and dangerous.” He sets up a target in the backyard, and gets ready to shoot. The scheming kid has gotten his wish.

And here comes a comment on our family entertainment. How many viewers notice that the support for the target is an advertising sign, maybe from some commercial emporium that had discarded it as useless? One has to look fast for a clue to the film’s ironic comment about nostalgia — that upended, sideways sign, in beautiful, old-fashioned, pure white script, in a fleeting reminder of the good old days, announces the soda’s brand simply: “Golden Age.” That discarded sign, of some resilient metal, propels the ultimate comeback to Ralphie’s first shot, ricocheting that BB at him so fast it almost shoots his eye out. Some day the kid might learn the worldly savvy, adult adage, “Be careful what you wish for.” Perhaps this is why Shepherd originally wanted to title the film Santa’s Revenge.

Although Jean Shepherd’s philosophy tended to be that most things in life were going to end in disaster, in A Christmas Story he was able to present this in an acceptable form, disguising a negative undercurrent and making people laugh with his ever-present humor. After all, much laughter in life springs from a bit of ironic recognition of hard truths unexpectedly made manifest.

(More to come)

_______________________________________________

JEAN SHEPHERD and A Christmas Story Part 1

Tis the season to be jolly

because “A Christmas Story” is coming to town

(In many formats).

This year Christmas began in early October as a large, chock-full-of-goodies book about the movie appeared titled A CHRISTMAS STORY: BEHIND THE SCENES OF A HOLIDAY CLASSIC, by Caseen Gaines. (Forewords by Will Wheaton and Eugene B. Bergmann).

ChristmasStoryCoverRGB-240x300

The large-format book is filled with hundreds of pieces of information–and memories contributed by people who made the movie, as well as innumerable snapshots of the production cast and crew. Even shots of the discarded Flash Gordon episode.flash gordon

Chapter One has an extensive description by Caseen giving details of the Bob Clark and Jean Shepherd background. Shepherd is covered more than one might have expected, and for this, I’m very pleased. It’s a pleasure to encounter, in a book about the movie, all that Caseen encompasses regarding the truths and myths regarding Shepherd. Shepahaulics will nod their heads in approval and previously innocent movie fans will learn much about a guy with a radio microphone and a boundless imagination and sense of humor who made Christmas eve and day a more enjoyable tradition through his vision and his voice.

classic shep image

Jean Shepherd

expressing his vision with his voice.

__________________________

Caseen Gaines asked me to write a foreword for the book, and I did,  concentrating on Shepherd. I present the opening part of that foreword here:

A Christmas Story is not only the funniest, but the most witty, most clever, and most satisfying film you’re ever likely to see every year for twenty-four hours straight starting Christmas Eve.

Over fifty million people watch at least parts of it every year as it’s shown on cable television, and some families, in their Christmas passion, have memorized the dialogue and the narration, repeating them along with the film. Yet most of the viewers undoubtedly don’t know much about the background of the film. If their ignorance is bliss, this book will improve their bliss by filling in a lot of background — and foreground.

Focus for a moment on the creator of this masterpiece. Let’s begin A Christmas Story with its opening titles. Of course not enough people read film titles, but in this case it’s worth taking the trouble, because who created it and narrates it is of much relevance to what it’s all about. The vast majority of the film’s annual viewers probably don’t know who Jean Shepherd is, despite the fact that prominent among the opening titles they could read Shepherd’s name four times: that this was a film “from the works of Jean Shepherd”; that Ralphie’s adult voice was none other than Shepherd; that the movie was based on Shepherd’s novel, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, and that Shepherd co-wrote the film script with his wife, Leigh Brown, along with the film’s director and co-producer, Bob Clark.

Jean Shepherd, for all the humor and joy he expressed in his decades of nightly radio programs, also had a negative view of life — he called it “realistic” — and he definitely disliked nostalgia, even though it sometimes crept into his work, especially at the tale-end of a film such as A Christmas Story. Although Bob Clark once said that they worked hard to give a recognizable sense of what many people would remember from their past, he did not suggest that the film was meant to be an exercise in nostalgia. Clark called it “an odd combination of reality and spoof and satire.” That is not nostalgia.

As to negativity and nostalgia, one has only to think about most of the film’s calamitous set pieces. Yet, because they are so funny, most people don’t realize that the funniness is inseparable from the bizarre outcome of so many incidents:

(Stay tuned for more)

________________________________________________

JEAN SHEPHERD–a faux/for-real tribute to Old Shep

_____

OLD SHEP

“I remember the time at the old swimming hole.

Well, I woulda drowned beyond doubt

But old Shep was right there

to the rescue.”

_____

“Old Shep” is a much-recorded country/western song by Clyde Foley and Arthur Willis.

Nostalgia and dying, beloved dogs, get me every time–right in the ‘ol tear ducts.

“When I was a lad
And old Shep was a pup
Over hills and meadows we’d stray…. “

Recited on an album titled “Old Shep” by Walter Brennan

walter brennan oold shep

WALTER BRENNAN

Oscar-winning star of stagecoach, screen, and television.

I remember him well alongside Bogy and Bacall

in “To Have and Have Not.”

______________

______________

Ol’ Shep

rescued a lot of us

who were growing up,

drowning in our personal ol’ swimmin’ holes

of adolescence.

He tossed us a nightly

WOR mind-preserver.

____________________________________________________

JEAN SHEPHERD–Transcription? Novel? Truth?

 

What follows is the salvaged part of a correspondence on the Amazon site,

referring to my SHEP’S ARMY. I found it so interesting

that I first typed out my response in a Word document,

and then copied/pasted into my comments about the Review.

If I hadn’t saved my Word documents, nothing of the Review

and exchange would now exist.

I assume that, for whatever reasons, the Reviewer

chose to delete his review and its accompanying comments.

Too bad.

______________________________

 

[First part of a Customer Review, as it was sent by Amazon

to me by email—the remainder of the Review is no long available—

see below for details.]

Shep’s Army: Bummers, Blisters and Boondoggles

 Disappointed, November 1, 2013
By XXXXX

 

XXXXX says:  Nov 1, 2013 2:23:26 PM PDT

A Brass Figlagee with Oakleaf Cluster goes to you, Mr. Bergmann, for putting together this fine book of Shep’s Army stories, however I must disagree with you on several points.

First: I went back to the Amazon listing for this book and looked at it more carefully and could not find any information indicating that the book consisted of edited transcriptions of Shep’s radio show. In fact the blurb says, “Shep’s Army is the first volume of new Shepherd tales to be published in a quarter century.” To me that does not sound like transcriptions.

Second: I think that it is natural for me to expect that this book might be some previously unpublished Army stories that were part of Shep’s estate. After all, on the PLAYBILL page (p. 3) of the December 1967 issue of PLAYBOY (the one in…

[end of Amazon email as sent to me, above.]

[He goes on to describe several instances in which Shepherd

proclaimed the soon-to-be-forthcoming “novel” of army stories.

Unfortunately, a day after the customer’s post and my first response,

the entire Customer Review and comments disappeared from Amazon’s page

for my book. So, missing is the remainder of his original review

and my responses—at first, Amazon didn’t allow

my comment to be posted at all (maybe too long?), so I tried repeating my attempt

with the final 2 paragraphs of my long comment held back for another try,

and, indeed, Amazon posted it. With the Review deleted from the Amazon site,

some parts of his and my comments are lost.]

______________________________________

I am glad you like and find the book to be a fine one, and, indeed, you’re right that the Amazon listing doesn’t say “transcriptions.” I wish it had. Certainly I’ve had no intention of deceiving the reader. The one place on Amazon’s page for the book that does indicate that it consists of transcriptions is near the top under “Editorial Reviews” which quotes the PUBLISHERS WEEKLY review (the praise in it of which I’m very proud) indicating: “Utilizing years of broadcasts…”

In the half-dozen radio interviews I did for the book, I discuss that they are edited transcriptions, and it’s also mentioned in the CBS-TV interview of me about the book.

In my book’s introduction, page 4-5 I state that “We have only about fifteen hundred of the approximately five thousand broadcasts that have so far surfaced from which to select army stories to publish.” Keith Olbermann’s preface says, “…these spirited transcriptions of his army stories…”

I also wrote over a page describing my work of transcribing the stories from Shepherd’s radio audios. I’d wanted that description within my introduction, but it was cut and put in the back as an appendix.

Of course, one might not have noted any of these, but interestingly, in Shepherd’s own books that mainly consist of his short stories (IN GOD WE TRUST, and WANDA HICKEY) there is no mention that they are his own edited (worked over) transcriptions of his radio stories. We know from listening to audios that they are. He really should have indicated that, but he seemed to want to emphasize the written “novel” aspect of his writing—it’s more prestigious. In a Long John radio discussion of his radio stories, he does talk about having to work over the transcriptions for putting them in his printed books.

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You say that, ”While many of his published stories were previously related on the radio or in his live appearances, they certainly are not “transcriptions” of the radio shows.” I do say that my book has his stories “transcribed and edited.” His own books are his transcribed and edited stories. It is certainly true that he considerably worked over his transcriptions and added to them for print, and I have conscientiously done all I could to not change or add any more than editorially necessary to make the transcriptions readable in print. I’m proud that my transcriptions (for me and for some other who have commented on it), retain more of the sense of his radio tellings than do his previously printed stories.

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The information (obviously given by Shepherd) indicates that he had a “novel” of army material that he was finishing, is, for me, just one more attempt of his to call his gathered-together stories a “novel.” And to imply that they were originally written-out rather than the modified transcriptions that they undoubtedly were. [One form of evidence that this is the case, is that his proposed titles for his army book, are titles of his previously broadcast stories–for example, the “Blue-assed Buzzard” proposed book title is the name of one of his army stories previously published in Playboy.] He called his gathered kid stories in IN GOD WE TRUST: ALL OTHERS PAY CASH a novel, but that certainly is a distortion of the meaning of “novel.” (The interspersed little talks with Fick don’t work. The Decameron and Canterbury Tales are grouped stories, not novels.)

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Above is what I posted, expecting that I’d be able to post the remaining

two paragraphs if the Reviewer responded and Amazon would then

permit my posting of the remainder of my comments.

With the deletion of the entire Review, that couldn’t happen.

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As you can see, I’ve spent much thought and time in responding to your comments (I find such discussions intellectually challenging and, indeed, entertaining), and I appreciate that you spent considerable time and thought in posting them. I do feel that, at least in part, info on Amazon is remiss in not having mentioned that the stories are transcriptions. I also feel that some of our interchange revolves around what exactly we define as “transcriptions” and “novel.” ….

I hope we can conclude by agreeing that we are both Shepherd enthusiasts. I spend most of my waking hours thinking and writing material to advance knowledge of his works—in books, articles, and in my http://www.shepquest.wordpress.com  blog about him. Excelsior!

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