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JEAN SHEPHERD–My books about him + SHEP’S KID STORY BOOK

JULY 26, 2016, JEAN SHEPHERD WOULD HAVE BEEN 95, AND SEVERAL WEEKS AGO I TURNED 78. I THINK WE’VE BOTH WAITED LONG ENOUGH.

My two failure-to-find-publishers for completed book manuscripts about Shepherd I’ve cannibalized and posted on this blog: Keep Your Knees Loose: More A. & E. of Jean Shepherd and Jean Shepherd Legends, Conundrums, & Gallimaufries. They detail my quests for new information about Shepherd, and include descriptions of communications I’ve received from his third wife, actress Lois Nettleton, letters written by his producer/fourth wife Leigh Brown, an interview with the delightful woman I call “The Vampire Lady,” an extensive interview with Shepherd enthusiast, lead singer/song writer of rock band Twisted Sister, Dee Snider, and an interview with the editor/publisher of one of Shepherd’s books and of Leigh Brown’s book, THE SHOW GYPSIES. I comment extensively on the similarities and contrasts between Shepherd and his best friend, Shel Silverstein. I discuss the relationship between Shepherd and Hugh Hefner, and with the Beatles. I describe how Shepherd’s creation for Sesame Street, the animated cartoon “Cowboy X” (which can be seen on YouTube), and his story about getting a fishing fly hook stuck in his ear, are both important metaphors for his entire career. The third unpublished book manuscript incorporates  dozens of Shep’s travel tales, also completely posted on this site.

My picaresque travels through the land of Shep have led to many adventures and to many new and fascinating discoveries–and I continue sallying forth in all directions in search of more grails.

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For the last two years (yes, 2 years) I’ve been told by a publisher that my manuscript of Shepherd’s kid stories as told on the air and none of which have been published in print, seemed close to getting a contract. Another publisher reported interest in it, but was heading for a couple weeks’ vacation around Christmas and he’d get back to me soon thereafter–it’s now July and no word. In mid-March the first publisher said the book was just awaiting a contract signature from one of the biggest/best-known New York publishers! Several months later (mid-May) I asked in an email what was happening about that imminent signature–I got no reply. It’s now several months after my tickler email about that signature and still no word.

For half a century, through fiction and non-fiction, I’ve worked hard at writing, attempted publishing, awaiting publishers’ responses to me (usually at least a 3-month delay in publisher-responses for each submission–and they discourage multiple submissions), and agonized my way through the contracted-for two Shep books from signed contract to publication day (Excelsior, You Fathead! and Shep’s Army). “Agonized”? Besides the understandable hard work, let’s just leave the rest at: lost battles, insult, and injury.

I tried 10 agents, asking them to represent my Shep books, and got no positive replies.

Now I’m tired of hanging by my thumbs.

So I’m going to start posting my transcripts of Shepherd’s broadcast kid stories on this blog. At any stage, should a publisher hand me a signed contract, I’ll sign it, stop posting the kid book (if I’m forced to), and we can get going on putting those kid stories in print-on-paper, the way  I–and probably Shep–would have preferred to see them.

Followers of this blog have seen the very positive forewords for the book manuscript from Twain, Fields, and Kafka. (Thanks, guys!) I’m about to start posting my introduction to this book that’s tentatively  titled:

I WAS THIS KID, SEE–

JEAN SHEPHERD KID STORIES

or

JEAN SHEPHERD KID STORIES–

I WAS THIS KID, SEE

or

SHEP’S KID STORIES

or something sorta like that.

Happy birthday, Jean Parker Shepherd.

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JEAN SHEPHERD, I’ve got you covered–Part 2 of 2, & ARTSY FARTSY (8) Guernica

A continuation of my showing the various cover ideas I’ve had for my book manuscripts (mostly unpublished).

kid book cover

(colors way off)

Photo of kids courtesy of

Steve Glazer and Bill Ek.

Transcriptions from Shep’s radio broadcasts of some of his kid stories. A grouping of never-before-in-print Shep kid stories from kindergarten through high school and the beginnings of college, similar in organisation to my SHEP’S ARMY book. Dare I say–short stories  grouped into a chronology of growing up: could sorta be called Shepherd’s “kid novel.” [Try to ignore color distortion here, folks. Imagine light gray background with red type and photo frame. Also, try to ignore the elephant in the room.]

I believe that all of these works would be worthy additions to the

Shep library of related books.

The two miscellany books and the travel book

are now being cannibalized/folded

into what would become the selected,  single SHEPQUEST book–

unless some publisher would like to publish one or

more as stand-alone books.

The kid stories book, and the army stories book are both fiction and I think of each as akin to a novel of maturation–a bildungsroman. The travel book I refer to as consisting of “narratives,” and I’m sure the material is virtually all true. (Except, I don’t really believe that Fatima, the slave girl he claimed to have acquired in an Arab marketplace, he actually had shipped to his New York apartment. Leigh Brown would not have tolerated that.)

It has also occurred to me that the army stories, the kid stories,

and the travel narratives, all consisting of my edited transcripts,

with my introductions, would make a great trilogy

of Shepherd’s broadcasts.

Below is an idea of mine for what they

would look like together as a boxed set.

shep trilogy box cover

Designed before the army and the kid books had cover ideas.

[Viewers are welcome to make comments on all of the above.

Publishers are welcome to make offers.

Dream on, little Genie!]

– eb –

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artsyfratsy 10010

(8) “Guernica” Colorization

Way back in the late 1980s, one evening I went to one of my favorite film theaters, the Quad Cinema on West 13th Street, Manhattan. In the lobby sat OBJETS VEND’ART BY VENDONA— an old ice cream vending machine vending artwork for $1.25. WOW! Art for a buck-and-a-quarter—what a fascinating idea. I inserted quarters until I had in my hand, several witty “artworks.”

vendona machine

I contacted the originator/proprietor, Ona Lindquist, and she invited me to her studio. One lunch hour a coworker and I visited and enjoyed meeting her and discussing Vendart. She invited me to submit an idea, which I did. She accepted it and I, with Allison’s help, made it up in the required 100 units:

THE GUERNICA COLORIZATION KIT

My idea combined my fascination with Picasso and his large, shades-of-gray masterpiece, “Guernica,” with what I considered the then-recent art-distorting commercial, money-grubbing technique of “colorizing” black and white films. Can you image a colorized version of Citizen Kane or The Birth of a Nation?

An idea filled with irony. Why not imagine “Guernica” in a colored version? For me, part of the nature of the mural done in monochrome is that, over the centuries, paintings of war/violence in all its horrific guises, have been done in horrific-iterations—so much so that we have, in part, become inured to the riot of colors—the whole horror has become a cliché. Why not eliminate that cliché and make people really pay attention—do it in shades of gray? In addition, textured parts of the painting imitate the all-pervasive popular communication medium of its day, the daily newspaper and its black-and-white photos. So, Picasso made a horrible act of war in black and white.

So then, let’s mock the idea of colorization by trivializing the color–creating my kit? (At that time, I was not aware of any previous thoughts of colorizing “Guernica.”)

vendona guernica kit

Guernica line

My kit consists of a descriptive sheet, two black-line drawings of Guernica (from Picasso’s first full-size drawing on the canvas), a copy of an analysis by Rudolf Arnheim on Picasso’s use of black and white, three quality colored crayons, and, to hold them safely together, a plastic curtain-rod cover cut to 6″ enclosing the lot, all rubber-banded into a protective sandwich baggie.

Every kit contains different Crayola colors. (By the way, don’t ever buy cheap crayons—they do not have enough pigment to deliver acceptable color-to-paper.) I gave the hundred kits to Ona. They all sold.

ADDENDUM

The Vendona art-selling operation no longer exists except in the informative website about it that Ona Lindquist posted: http://objetsvendart.com

vendona.artis of month

I recently searched and found several colorized versions of “Guernica,” including a couple colored on a French primary school’s site teaching children about “Guernica.” guernica in color

By the way, over the years I’ve come to think that, maybe the only movie ever made that I might be happy to have colorized, as it’s a sweet, kiddy, Christmas story, is Miracle on 34th Street. (Yes, I know it’s been colorized, and indeed—oh, the double horror!–subsequently remade in color.)

ARTSY ARROWS0010

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JEAN SHEPHERD, I’ve got you covered–Part 1 of 2

THE ONCE AND FUTURE SHEPBOOKS

As my educational and professional background has been in the commercial, visual arts (graphics and museum exhibit design), I enjoy trying my hand at book covers of manuscripts I’ve written.

When I submitted my first Shepherd book, I included, in a fully rendered, in-color layout, my suggestion for the front cover.  The published cover is precisely what I created except that the iconic photo of Shep got cropped in the upper left-hand corner more than I’d designed and presented it. (The person in charge cropped a bit off Shepherd’s upraised hand, probably to make the image larger and thus a bit more impressive.)  Other than that, colors, type style, layout, use of photo–everything about the cover is as I designed it.  But I got no credit for it in the published book–or anywhere else:

excelsior

(Published cover with cropped hand at upper left)

I’ve tried a variety of designs for other book manuscripts of mine. It’s lots of creative fun. What the heck, one or more may yet, with some improvements of my preliminaries designs made by a publisher’s cover designer, find itself out there on innumerable bookstore shelves from coast to coast!

REMEMBER THAT THESE BELOW ARE OF MANUSCRIPTS

THAT DON’T YET HAVE PUBLISHING CONTRACTS

[As usual, click on images for larger views. Where shown, narrow vertical area to left is spine.]

Mostly, these cover ideas were designed and printed on my now defunct special printer

before my SHEP’S ARMY book arrived on the scene

kykl COVER textKYKL cover by eb0002

Compilation of unpublished observations and essays of mine written subsequent to the material in EXCELSIOR, YOU FATHEAD! It includes Lois Nettleton notes to me and an interview on Shep she gave  soon after he died; Leigh Brown’s letters to her best friend on her scheme to kidnap Jean from Lois; and lots more stuff–on Shel Silverstein, Hugh Hefner, “Cowboy X,” and so on.

MISC cover

Contains additional original essays by me on Shep. Photo by Don Knowlton, drawing of the guy shown with the excelsior banner is from Shel Silverstein’s drawings on Shep’s LP album, “Jean Shepherd and Other Foibles.” The above two books, publisherless, I have been cannibalizing for posts on this blog (which also includes much new material I create as I go along).

q.JS questing book cover

This loose leaf book I put together, composed of dozens of photos of Shep at all stages of his career. This was inspired by my comments in the final chapter of my EYF!, page 415-416 titled “The Many Faces of Jean Shepherd: A Metaphor?” I comment therein:

Complementing the many-sided and often self-contradictory aspects of Shepherd’s stories, biography, and persona were the many faces he presented to the world over the years. Examining photos may yield some clues to the real Jean Shepherd….

We do not know why he changed his look so frequently and so markedly over the years. He appeared to be at least a dozen different people. Was he responding to the style of the times (for his own pleasure or to better appeal to his audience); was he trying on visual aspects of his artistic persona to discover which outward manifestation might best fit the variety and complexity of the creative forces he felt within himself, was he trying to conceal himself from others–or was he himself seeking a real Jean Shepherd?

blogbook cover 1

This is an idea I have of publishing a selection of my blog posts that would be made up of material from the above two miscellanies and the new material I’m writing these days. [BTW, For technical reasons beyond my understanding and control, some colors, shown on these cover images, got god-awful-changed in the computer-process. The one immediately above is a major example. In it, visualize a solid black background and bright red type,]

travel 2travel 1

A book manuscript of edited broadcast transcripts  of Shepherd’s travel narratives, organized and introduced by me, encompassing his love of traveling around the world. Including, among other areas: Maine, the “March on Washington,” travels with The Beatles (“John, Paul, George, Ringo, and Shep”), Australia, Africa, Ireland, Paris, Peru’s headhunter country in the Amazon, and his whirlwind trip around the world in seven days. Followers of this blog can read the entire manuscript in many parts.

Stay tuned for Part 2

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JEAN SHEPHERD–Gene B.’s Rant. Part 1

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“You could be on New York radio for many years

and be widely unknown.” –Jean Shepherd

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Regarding Shep’s third book of short pieces, The Ferrari in the Bedroom, Shepherd’s main publisher, Doubleday, who had best sellers publishing his first two books of stories, rejected it. Leigh Brown had to go shopping it around until Dodd Mead bought it.

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Ferrari cover

Where were/are all the Fatheaded Jean Shepherd fans?

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NEGEV_REGION_NEW

(This is a desert.)

Lemme put it to you another way: the number of listeners Shep had during his live broadcast days has been given at many hundreds of thousands; the lowest figure I’ve ever come across is 60,000.

If there were only 60,000 of us in the 60s and 70s, where are they now—maybe 10,000 are dead; maybe 20,000 don’t pay attention and don’t know there are thousands of free and nearly free audios of Shep shows, three websites, one blog, several trade paperbacks of his stories and articles easily available, two books focused on his work, numerous books with significant references to him, and the Internet with numerous articles about him including Donald Fagan’s on “Slate” and Richard Corliss’s marvelous tribute on the Time Magazine site. And what about the hour Seinfeld talked about him at the Paley Center?  Wake up, Shep enthusiasts!

THAT LEAVES AT LEAST

30,000 FANS.

Shep listeners are not like other people–

They are enthusiasts–fanatics,

understanding from their first contact with him

that he is their intellectual soulmate, mentor!

WHERE ARE ALL THOSE FATHEADED JEAN SHEPHERD ENTHUSIASTS NOW?

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The only positive note I can come up with is that In God We Trust, his first book of kid stories, is now, according to its current colophon page, into its 46th trade paperback printing. Encountered recently in a book store. How the xxxx did that happen?! See below–earlier (only 38th) printing 

IGWT colophon page paperback

Why hasn’t the Paley Center released on DVD the Shep-tribute hour as they have all those other programs (that are apparently very popular, but which I’ve never heard of)?

Paley_Center_Jerry

Don’t they care about promoting and disseminating

their fine Seinfeld tribute to Shep

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And why does the Facebook group, with its bold and straightforward name “I’m a Fan of Jean Shepherd,” have less than 700 members instead of tens-of-thousands? And why does only a small handful of those few hundreds ever post on the group? Two of those maybe-a–dozen who post (Max S. and Gene B.) mostly promote their basic Shep-work from elsewhere for anyone who might care.

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Why has the only book about his career (my Excelsior, You Fathead!) in ten years not quite sold 8,000 copies yet? Where are the other 22,000+ Shep enthusiasts? (I recently encountered that on amazon.com, EYF! and S’s A each have about 43 mostly very enthusiastic Customer Reviews.)

Why doesn’t some theatrical producer, or influential Shep-enthusiast, grab my play about Shep? Kevin Spacey, where are you?

play scenery

Why did my current publisher inform me last year that, after a year on the market, my Shep’s Army book had yet to sell 2,000 copies?

Because of those less-than-2,000 copies, my publisher doesn’t want Shep’s travel-story manuscript, which is why I’m posting the chapters on this blog. And my publisher has even failed to respond to my other manuscript of Shepherd material that’s sure-to-be-a-hit-if-people-pay-attention.

“Get an agent!” Tried that–and no agent is interested even in books with somewhat of a built-in audience. Way back, looking for a publisher for EYF! I chose a dozen agents that seemed likely prospects and sent them query letters with SASEs. I received back 5 no thanks, 4 lots-a-luck but no thanks, and 3 no response. An agent’s commission even on my EYF! would have been under $3,000 so far–is that piddle worth any agent’s time? (And, in recent decades, most publishers won’t even look at a book that isn’t submitted by an agent.)  I do not have an agent–not because I haven’t tried.

“Self-publish!”  Got any idea how much that costs? Any idea of the non-creative drudgery that involves? What about promotion? Of course I’d broadcast to the email group and the Facebook group and my blog, and I’m sure that flicklives.com would promote it, but, based on previous experience, would that sell enough even to get an agent’s attention? What about distribution? Without having to spend thousands on  a small ad somewhere, how would anyone find out about it?

Why don’t I start sending out that sure-hit manuscript to more publishers and more agents? Because I’ve spent over 45-years struggling to get my varied manuscripts accepted and I’m tired of that struggle—it’s a hassle and mostly a time-waster. (“Had we but world enough and time, / This coyness, lady, were no crime.”) I’ve experienced many of the aggravating but inevitable snags on the route to publication. The least of which is having to wait–hanging by my thumbs–at least 3 months for a reply for each submission. Should I get an offer out-of-the-blue, yes, I’ll take it. Then I’ll do my very best in the pre-publication process–even though knowing through previous experiences that I’ll have to struggle and spend my precious time going through those grueling pre-publication frustrations and compromises endemic between contract and publication day–yet, it would be worth it all! And I ain’t in it for the nickels  and dimes.

“GLORY DAYS”

022_Gene-Max_small

010_bergmanncrowd_smallCBS image

• Gene B. and Max Schmid at Old Time Radio convention.

• 70 people at a CT library to attend my discussion of EYF!

• Only TV interview: SHEP’S ARMY.

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And, speaking of my blog, why has it taken several years to even build up what I estimate to be only about 100 readers per post? My site statistics indicate that recently I’ve just achieved 110 “followers,” whatever that means. And why do so few of those 100-or-so people think to comment about Shepherd at the site?

And talking about posting my Shep’s travel manuscript on the blog, I’ll remind you—and myself—that a fair portion of the posts of mine on varied non-travel Shep subjects I’ve cannibalized from my other two unpublished book manuscripts of miscellaneous (and wonderful!) content about Shep.

So—where does that leave me? Am I discouraged? Yes.

But I carry on with my Excelsior banner held aloft.

bullwinkle up mtn

 

Shel's excelsior drawing

 

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