Home » ARTSY FARTSY » JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories–Dating and (145) ARTSY Ubu [part 1 of 2]

JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories–Dating and (145) ARTSY Ubu [part 1 of 2]



As a cake of human yeast and a young bud on a thorny rosebush of life, Shepherd succumbs to urges of sexual awakening.  In biology class, sharing the dissection of a frog with a lovely young thing, he dates an uptown Pearl; pursuing another “chick,” he encounters an impediment of turkeys a la Ford; on a much-anticipated first date with a young Swedish beauty, he drinks fly soup; and, not expecting one consequence of high school graduation, he scraggs with the best of them.

Bud On That Thorny Rosebush

I’m this kid, see.  One day it’s June.  It’s going to be June for a lot of you, as it always has been for kids for centuries over.  And it was once June for me too.

It was June, and I had just finished my freshman year in high school.  I was veritably a bud—on that thorny rosebush of life.  Ready to pop those petals out and to reach for the sun!  To drink in the elixir, the veritable dew of passion and of existence.

There I was, crammed with my head full of isosceles triangles.  I had just finished a year of algebra and I was very good at quadratic equations.  Very good.  Mr. Suttlemeyer was very proud that I made it.  I was beginning to absorb this thing—what it was about—this education.  And now it was spring.  June.  It was the Depression.




My artists’ book, “Ubu Raw,” done in two formats in 2002, is a tribute to Alfred Jarry’s 1896 play, Ubu Roi. The play is an outrageous stinker, a surrealist masterpiece.  The artist’s book’s first version is fitted into a hinged plastic box 5” X 7” X 1 /7” and the subsequent edition of one is housed in an elegant wooden cigar box 6 1/8” X 9 ¾” X 1 7/8” (These wood boxes, in many sizes and styles, can be found at ebay. At the moment there are 4,384 for sale.) I chose the lines from the play and designed/printed the selections. My printed illustrations are pasted on corrugated cardboard sheets. Note the cardboard backs for numbering the sheets, made by cutting into the cardboard on one side forming numerals, then removing that top layer.  (The current paragraph is meant to convey info for some, and for everyone, to lull [amusing-sounding word] into the illusion that the following material is of no offense.)

I am not responsible for Ubu’s terminology: pardon my and Jarry’s French. Any connection between Jarry’s Ubu Roi (1896), my Ubu Raw (2002), and life in these United States, is a bizarre and lamentable coinkadink.

(Jarry’s drawing of Ubu.)

Ubu’s first line in the play is Merdre,

Which, with the extra “r” is, in English, [S—t].

King Ubu (Ubu Roi) by Alfred Jarry,

Translated by Patrick Whittaker 2007. : The title character, Pere Ubu, is a gluttonous, greedy, and cruel individual who slaughters the royal family of Poland in order to ascend the throne. Willing to sacrifice anybody to accomplish his ends, Ubu ultimately proves himself a coward when he is forced to do battle with the king of Poland’s surviving son. The play’s scatological references, pompous style, and bastardized French caused the audience to riot when it was first produced in 1896. It was later championed by the Surrealists and Dadaists in the 1920s, who recognized in Ubu roi the first Absurdist drama.

My cousin Ray was fascinated by the play—he and his wife and I saw an off-Broadway puppet version of it. I became interested in it also–and encountered an artists’ book, hand-lettered-and-illustrated edition by the female half of an accomplished husband/wife team in the experimental book creation and publishing business:

Two Pages From the Extensive Ubu Comic Book (1970)

by Franciszka Themerson




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

%d bloggers like this: