For coming-of-age, the escargot story, opening up the “Jean Shepherd” persona to a wider world of endless possibilities, in its specifics, is very probably a fabrication. The craftsmanship, the artistry he put into it! It’s so perfect and the moral so pat that it’s too good to be true. Building up the image of himself as the unsophisticated bumbler—never having been to such an affair, and then the “Oh, my God!” repeated so that one is tricked into assuming the worst until the revelation: “It is so good I can’t believe it!” Long after that moment of recognition while he’s just lying in the dormitory room he will remember this epiphany—“there’s an aftertaste.”
The Bugatti tale might be one of the few Jean Shepherd stories in this book that with justification could be considered, in the main, autobiographically true to his life. Ironically, his long-term memory seems to have failed him regarding some specifics (there are two similar but distinct Bugattis with nearly the same designations), but the incident leading to the epiphany is corroborated by accurate details regarding the where and when of the particular car he saw. The 57SC as retained in his memory as being so widely celebrated, subsequently owned by fashion designer Ralph Lauren, was the centerpiece of a recent major exhibit of Lauren’s cars at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. As the Museum’s director commented about the car, “It speaks a little of evil, I think it’s so wickedly designed. This black beauty, though, is extraordinary.” As Shepherd predicted, cars exhibited and esteemed in an art museum!