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JEAN SHEPHERD—KID STORIES!

KID STORIES—FOR GOSH SAKE!’

I believe that among many Shepherd fans, his kid stories are the most popular. Among the hundreds that he told on the air, only about two dozen ever appeared in print—mostly in In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash and Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories. We’re familiar with Ralphie wanting—and getting—a BB gun, and we thrill just to hear reference to various other stories. What about so many others that he told—we can access the audios to many of these, and listening to his compelling voice, for me, is the best, most authentic way of enjoying them.

But, as the astronomical sales of those first two books attest (well over two-dozen printings each of the two), there is something special (and undoubtedly more convenient) in holding a fistful of them in a book and reading, pausing, going back, re-reading them at one’s eyes and mind’s ease and speed.

igwt paperbackwandaH←Perennial sellers

 

 

 

 

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As comparison shows, Shepherd added considerable text to the audios when he presented his stories for print. In Playboy, for example he added what he obviously felt necessary for that audience—expletives in army stories. In addition, he just beefed out the stories in ways that, for the most part, I feel are unnecessary. (Which is to say, in terms of conciseness and effect, I’d prefer that he hadn’t done it.)

For me (ego-centric that I am), that is one of the reasons I enjoy reading my transcriptions from his radio audios—which I very gently edited to retain his “voice,” not adding any words to his immortal voice-on-paper. I do very keenly feel his spoken voice in these transcriptions–see his travel narratives on this blog. Also see my Shep’s Army. I’m most proud of the Publishers Weekly review of it, which includes: “…a presentation that, against the odds, captures the energy of an oral telling.”

For the  feel of his voice and existence in print—a medium that Shepherd felt was supreme in his life from childhood on—I’d like to see as much as possible of Shep’s really good stories immortalized in book form for the historical record. So one can see why I want my manuscript of Shep’s kid stories published in printer’s ink on good old book-paper. And hey, publishers and agents, I believe the book would make:

→$←

kid stories cover 1

Photo courtesy of Steve Glazer and Bill Ek.

It’s a book full of minor despair and revelatory joy: left-handed disability and decayed teeth, crashing waves of words and Tinker Toys, April fool, dots and dashes, Mark Twain, Roman candles, pharmaceuticals and worms, steel mill with a tornado and catching rats, a date with flies and scragging, digesting snails and a Bugatti—putting hair on the chest and mind-broadening whacks on the ol’ noggin—encountering “an alive, magnificent, evil, sensual machine that lay low.…” All told*, making the kid a man.

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What will happen to all the kid-story transcriptions

beyond their appearance here?

(Yes, this also is part of the “Rant.”)

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FYI: I’d tried to interest 12 agents in my first Jean Shepherd book manuscript back in the first days of the new millennium and got no takers. It ain’t easy getting an agent. That book continues to sell after ten years, now having reached about 8,000 hardcover copies sold at $27.95–it should go on for a few more decades as a back-list seller.

 ?

Recently it looked as though the kid-story mnuscript might get published, as an associate at a publishing house read the manuscript and told me it was so funny and enjoyable that it led to laughing out loud and that publishing it was a no-brainer. But at an editorial meeting, it was turned down, surprisingly, by those who’d never heard of Shep and who doubted its sales possibilities despite the connection to the movie A Christmas Story and sales of In God We Trust. They also feared regarding rights to publish even though the Shep estate had researched the issue and had said to me in an email that it was their understanding that Shepherd’s radio broadcasts were in the public domain.

SO–NO DEAL

I gave up, but another publication possibility appeared and I await news. Within the next month or so, baring miracles falling from up there in publishing heaven, I’ll begin posting the kid stories on this Shepherd blog.
 
Best Regards,
 
Gene

!

P.S.– To readers of this blog–
If necessary, I’d forgo ALL royalties for this
Jean Shepherd Kid Stories,
just to get it in print.

!

Stay tuned.

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6 Comments

  1. mygingerpig says:

    Gene,

    How about publishing one or two of your transcribed kids stories here so we and others can get a taste of them?
    Maybe you could get a cartoonist and create a web Jean Shepherd comic book series. Publish one every Sunday on subscription. I’d subscribe for sure.

    Joel

    • ebbergmann says:

      Joel, thank you very much for your encouragement. I do have contact with a publisher who seems as though they may be interested. I’m going to wait a couple of months at most to see if anything happens before I start putting the kid stories up in any format at all–I don’t want to jinx a possible deal.

      As for promotion, I already have a Mr. S. Clemens and a Mr. W. Fields (aka Dukenfield) who have written short forewords in their inimitable styles.

      Gene

  2. Stephen Roga says:

    Gene,

    Good luck with this latest venture!

    Thanks do much for your efforts for our pal Shep!

    Steve

    >

  3. Bud says:

    Gene, I couldn’t agree more with the words of praise that you received from “Publishers Weekly” regarding “Shep’s Army”: “…a presentation that, against the odds, captures the energy of an oral telling.” In my reading, Shep’s _voice_ spoke each and every word of your outstanding book to me. May “Shep’s Kid Stories” find its rightful place, and soon, on a bookstore shelf near me (us)!

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