This Part includes more front matter from my unpublished
Keep Your Knees Loose, as well as additional stuff.
Because so many describe my Excelsior, You Fathead! as a “biography,” I thought it might serve to include near the front of Keep Your Knees Loose, a notice setting the record straight (as though that might do some good):
There! That gets that off my mind! HA!!
What follows are a version of a Preface and, probably in forthcoming Part 4, short titles/descriptions of the proposed chapters of KYKL! As I’ve mentioned, some of this material has already been cannibalized from the manuscript and used for this blog. “Cannibalized” is such a horrific word–let’s just say I’ve served it in a civilized manner and cooked it up with a bit of extra seasoning after seeking it out in the fertile soil of the manuscript in which it grew, and then tearing the living matter out by its roots.
Gentle reader, I’d like to relate to you my adventures in a Shepherd-world of both reality and illusion (one may observe here rogues and heroes, whores and heroines, beggars, and noble primitives neither better nor worse than you or I in the vast heart and mind of American culture), adventures told by this scribbling picaro. Hark back to that knight-errant Don Quixote, as you think of me, a modern, though less-saintly adventurer. I unsheathe and raise on high my rusty falchion (a quaint word for sword used by none other than our own Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his immortal ditty, “Excelsior”). Seeking glory and the incorporeal embrace of my Muse, the lusty slattern of my dreams whom fatheads might call Dulcinea del Toboso, I, on my wobbly nag, galumph headlong in all directions.
In a certain town on Long Island, New York, which I do not wish to name (but it may slip out), there lives this scribbler—one of those who always has a lance and a ballpoint pen in the rack, a battered shield and serviceable computer on his desk, and an obsession with literature and the creative life. Only a few years past, this muddleheaded gent managed to publish a book whose title exclaimed, with its very first word, “Excelsior,” his own reckless optimism. Despite trying to make that first book as complete as possible, he knew that many details about Jean Shepherd’s life and work were hidden in dusty minds and forgetful attics throughout the land, just waiting to be made manifest, in part after being nudged into consciousness by Don Quixote de la Massapequa.
My original intention for KYKL! was merely to describe the new material that had accrued both through happenstance and by my ferreting it out. The material would be a permanent part of the recorded history of our culture. But my best friend and severest critic complained: “This book could and should be more. Write a book about your fascinating adventures in the world of Shepherd and Shep-kooks! What’s it like to live in a world surrounded by Shepherd mania? Have fun with it or it’s not worth doing.” Yes, I must have fun and create a work of art— nothing-but-the-truth picaresque adventures through the land of Shepherdiana.
(Remember that quests for grail tend to be never-ending and that
“the journey is the destination.”
That’s why unexpected encounters, such as mine in ShepQuests
can be so appropriate and enjoyable.)
EXAMPLE OF THE UNEXPECTED
Unexpected: my unexpected hearing of Shep’s story about the film “Play ‘Misty’ For Me” and claiming that he’d been stalked, leading to six deaths. I kinda believed this despite my general attitude that Shep’s stories were almost all fiction. I posted several essays on Shep and the film. Tom Lipscomb, who’d known Leigh and Jean well and been their editor and publisher, and whose intelligence and perception I admire, comments:
I’ve heard them ALL, and Shep and OTHER authors tell these stories when they are trying to impress someone they are doing business with like ME and he had plenty of opportunities… and he repeated them… He told me about what a s[**]t Herb Gardner was “stealing” 1000 Clowns about 1000 times AND I NEVER HEARD THIS ONE…. Shep acutely felt that he needed to drop names when he was feeling unimportant…. Otherwise he didn’t. He was filled with resentment at times about people he felt were more important than they deserved to be when he hadn’t broken out yet.
I don’t believe the story.
The key is that he NEVER wrote it down. Don’t you think he pushed Leigh to push that story a Zillion times….? And it never appeared… Tells me Leigh didn’t believe it either and was able to keep Shep from pushing it and embarrassing himself. But once he is on the air, there isn’t a damned thing she can do about it.
Oh me, oh my!
They’re slippery, inseparable maneuvers.
Who can pry ’em apart?
Back to KYKL in Part 4