Is my book SHEP’S ARMY—BUMMERS, BLISTERS, AND BOONDOGGLES mostly funny or something else? Some people have commented that there are many negatively-focused stories. To me, despite some downers, they’ve seemed funny. I decided to do a self-survey of the stories and grade them myself, in order of their sequence in the book, giving each a very short description. Remember that no matter how negative a story is, Shep’s approach, in telling, usually has a feeling one might call witty or funny or humorous–maybe entertaining in a humorous way.
PART 1: YOU’RE IN THE ARMY NOW
“Induction” Disappointment—he expects a patriotic ceremony NEGATIVELY FOCUSED
“Shorn” Outrage at being shorn of his “ducktail”– ego NEGATIVELY FOCUSED YET IRONICALLY FUNNY
“D is for Druid” He fakes-out the authorities regarding his religion FUNNY
“Being Orientated” Disparaging, with Broken Illusions NEGATIVELY FOCUSED
“Army Phraseology” He encounters soldiers’ wild vocabulary FUNNY
PART 2 ARMY HOSPITALITY
“Shermy the Wormy” He and his fellows are very cruel NEGATIVELY FOCUSED
“GI Glasses” He can’t see out of army glasses. Authorities are incompetent NEGATIVELY FOCUSED & FUNNY
“Lieutenant George L. Cherry Takes Charge” Disparaging authority NEGATIVELY FOCUSED & FUNNY
“Pole Climbing” Sad/frightening description of pole-climbing danger NEGATIVELY FOCUSED
“Service Club Virtuoso” A “folk” piano player NEGATIVELY FOCUSED & FUNNY
“Fourth of July in the Army” He describes an army parade PATRIOTIC FUNNY
“USO and a Family Invitation” He’s given a sexual treat FUNNY
“Shipping Out” He leaves “Camp Swampy” for a tropical hell NEGATIVELY FOCUSED
PART 3 WARTIME IN FLORIDA IS HELL
“MOS: Radar Technician” He realizes that pole climbing is death-defying NEGATIVELY FOCUSED
“Radar at 15,000 Volts” Shep and fellow soldiers are afraid of radar equipment until someone plays a practical joke. FUNNY
“Swamp Radar” Military incompetence results in enormous loss of lives. NEGATIVELY FOCUSED
“Night Maneuvers” Goofing off during night training DISPARAGING & FUNNY
“Lister Bag Attack” Soldier in need of anger management stabs water bag. SAD & FUNNY
“Boredom Erupts” A fight over the meaning of “time” FUNNY
“Code School” Military incompetence results in code school students playing joke. DISPARAGING & FUNNY
“T/5” DESCRIPTIVE of his rank FUNNY
Stay tuned for part 2
I am a fanatical enthusiast of Picasso’s work (No, I don’t like it all, and, give me a particular example to defend, I may fail miserably).
After the first 8 of my ARTSY FARTSY essays, I got my first comment about them. Joe Fodor, in the facebook group, “I am a fan of Jean Shepherd,” said he appreciated my invention of the Guernica Coloring Kit. This stimulated me to add additional comments regarding a coupla Artsy encounters with “Picasso.” (Everybody must have encountered Picasso in one manner or another, but a couple of my connections are surely rare.)
Years ago, attending an exhibit of ceramics in a Spanish museum (I think it was in Madrid or Barcelona), I encountered a small plate propped upright in a glass case with a caption indicating that the drawing on it was by Picasso, titled “Abstraction.” As he virtually never did anything totally “abstract,” I studied it a bit–and realized that it must have seemed abstract to whoever described and installed the piece, because it was mounted upside down.
Visualizing it the other way around, I saw that it was a sketchy image of a man on a horse (Don Quixote?). I wrote a short note to that effect and slid it between the front panes of glass, in front of the piece, and went on my way. I trust that some museum person would eventually see my note and correct the error.
Some years later, attending the large, 1980 Picasso retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, I encountered an etching of his with the wall label titled “image of the artist holding mask in center.” A quick glance told me that it was not a mask he held but a bellows camera. That night I wrote a note to the Museum and posted it regarding their error. The next time I visited the exhibit (I went five times), they’d corrected the wall label. (The catalog, published before the exhibition opened, retains the error.) I felt delighted that I had improved the content of this major Picasso exposition–if not the immemorial catalog.
Illustration in my copy of the catalog
(Part of my Picasso collection.)