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Excelsior, You Fathead!: The Art and Enigma of Jean Shepherd Hardcover – November 1, 2004
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Top Customer Reviews
I grew up in mid-Michigan. I stumbled on Jean Shepherd quite by accident one night in 1965 while tuning around. I don't think I heard more than a dozen shows altogether because the reception was lousy. When I was at college, reception was completely non-existent. Following college, I was drafted into the Army and subsequently served a year in southeast Asia. Not only would reception be virtually impossible, but also our radios didn't tune down that far. But I came across him again with his periodic stories in Playboy. And there the relationship ended. I did see a couple episodes of Jean Shepherd's America, but nothing else. Not until one of my kids asked me to watch a movie. Of course, it was Christmas Story and as soon as the narration started, I jumped up and yelled "Its him!" The kids were not impressed. Still aren't, 10 years later.
I think this is an important point. Everybody loved the movie, but it took someone special to appreciate Shepherd on the radio. Even today, when my wife and I are going to be together in the car for a couple of hours, I'll pop in a Shepherd CD. Inside of 10 minutes she is either asleep or she wants to tell me about her sister's foot problem. No interest whatsoever in the gems being imparted to us. So my love of Shepherd is something I keep to myself and I wonder how many others find the same thing.
Mr. Bergmann's book bothered me, especially the first two-thirds.Read more ›
In his landmark book, "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash" (from which much of "A Christmas Story" was drawn), Shepherd posed a question. He wondered whether the coming-of-age, Midwestern-value-laden innocence embodied by his childhood best friend, Flick, had managed to survive in modern America. Immediately after the book's publication, graffiti artists all over New York City answered with the spray-painted declaration, "Flick Lives" - which was read by millions, but only understood by Shepherd's clued-in fans (who he often referred to as his "gang").Read more ›
He did a brand new 45 minute monologue every single night of the week for over 20 years.
This book captures the spirit and genius of his work. I listened to him regularly from 1966 until the end. I saw several of his performances especially the ones at Seton Hall. (I have a recording of that.)
Here's what the book does not emphasize, Jean was not on NPR or some obscure station. He was on the most commercial of radio stations. The most dominant station in the largest city. WOR was both "important" and credible. WOR was the station your mother and her friends listened to all day, but they didn't listen to Jean. Jean's voice came from the transister under the pillow in hundreds of thousands of suburban teenage bedrooms and college dorm rooms throughout the Northeast. The fact that he was on WOR made his riffs all the more subversive. If he had been on an obscure non-commercial station it is doubtful his work would have been as thrilling.
Interestingly, and this is a consistent impression among my friends who grew up listening to him, the movie the Christmas Story isn't nearly as entertaining as the stories he told on the radio that are the foundation of that movie. We had heard those stories many times before the movie's release and the "sets" in our imaginations were more dramatic.
There is nothing as powerful as a skilled broadcaster in front of a radio microphone. Nothing. This is a great book, get it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This effort is more in the nature of one fan's critical appreciation than a serious biography. Indeed, the author has conceded that his intent was not to produce a biographical... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Herodotus12
If you are looking for "The Jean Shepherd Story", this is not it.
It took me some time to learn how to use and read this book. It wasn't a cover to cover effort. Read more
A revealing and detailed look at the mysterious Jean Shepherd, a man who talked about himself on the radio for hours each night without giving away too much. Read morePublished 6 months ago by K. Williams
Surprisingly frustrating work. The writing is good enough and clearly heavily researched, but the author spends most of the book telling us why he can't produce an actual biography... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Lynn S. Hendricks
Not quite a biography of “Shep”; but a chronological description of his work in radio, TV, and print. I found out a few things I did not know about him. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Wesley G Brodsky