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JEAN SHEPHERD –Trivia

Shepherd many times commented on his delight in trivia and how it could sometimes be an indicator of more important matters.  Harold Bloom, in his How to Read and Why (2000), quotes Oscar Wilde telling a friend that the philosophy of his play, The Importance of Being Ernest was “that we should treat all trivial things very seriously, and all serious things in life with sincere and studied triviality.”

importanc of being ernest

Sara Topham, David Furr, Brian Bradford in

“The Importance of Being Ernest.”

Regarding trivial pursuits, an older woman (shown above?) asks the young suitor of a sweet young thing if he has any bad habits. He says that he smokes, and she comments that a young gentleman has to have something to occupy himself.

Shepherd would undoubtedly have agreed with the first half of Oscar’s comment, although he might have decided that the second half was a bit over the top.  Time magazine’s Lev Grossman, in his September 25, 2006 review of Brainiac, the 2006 book by Jeopardy television quiz program champ, Ken Jennings, commented in a way that Shepherd would undoubtedly have approved: “There’s something touching about the world of trivia.  It’s a place where minutiae have a paradoxical grandeur and no fact is meaningless.”  It amused Shepherd that he remembered such seemingly unimportant information:

Is there anyone out there who can give me the name of the man—now why should I remember this—you know, my vast storehouse of garbage in my mind, the trivia, you know.  I see my mind sometimes as a wastebasket—full of all kinds of pieces of crumpled-up paper—with little torn pieces and little labels and stuff—all in there.  It’s just a big wastebasket.  It’s all full of this stuff.  And why do I remember this, man, I don’t know.  (July 6, 1966)

Only three weeks later (July 27), he again commented on his retention of such information, repeating the wastebasket metaphor and expanding it to “a garbage bucket, a city dump of total impedimenta.” A garbage bucket, where no fact is meaningless.

garbage dump

City Dump.

Meaningful facts–most everything

in this dump must have had meaning to the person or

organization before it became for them

of no use.

The sweet smell of decay–gulls like it.

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