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JEAN SHEPHERD Kid stories afterword

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AFTERWORDS—WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT [1]

 

Bugatti and Other Little Realities

Among the thousands of audios of Jean Shepherd’s broadcasts, we sometimes encounter several variations describing incidents from his real or fictional life. For this book, but for exceptions such as the inclusion of several divergent descriptions of how he began work at the steel mill, I’ve chosen one version of each story idea.

So Jean Shepherd can remember—or create—more than one version of an incident. Shepherd wants people to understand that he does not remember all his tales from actual occurrence, but that he is a creator—an artist. In his later years he especially emphasizes that, as he puts it, “I want my stuff to sound real. And so when I tell a story, I tell it in the first person so…that it sounds like it actually happened to me. It didn’t….I’m a fiction writer. I’m not sitting there doing a biography or an autobiography.”

His style of telling and the details are what entertain us, and it’s Shepherd’s underlying take on life as a kid, and his view of human life as a whole, that gives his stories their substance and their truth to life. Often crucial are the lessons Shepherd learned. Important truths reside in how he sees the world and how he expresses in these stories a kid’s growing maturation: his education.

What then, is true and what’s fiction in all these stories? We don’t know for sure other than to suspect that, although Shepherd understood a lot about what it was like to be a kid, most of the story details are the product of his imagination. True? “Bolivia exports tin,” is one of the almost totally inconsequential truths Shepherd said he learned in school. But what else can we suppose might be true to fact?

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2 Comments

  1. And I think it was the combination of his “art” with the radio medium that lent this, this patina of realism (a strong patina to be sure) to his stories. That was out in the air, for want of a better description. There is something about the “sound” that made it carry different than the written word. And I suppose it is why music, especially music of the immediate times, carries in people’s minds.

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