For that small but populous slice of the world reachable by radio station WOR (New York City and environs), Jean Shepherd was once a nightly fixture, back in the days when radio talk didn't shock. On the air, he would tell tales of his Indiana boyhood, which he eventually refined enough to write down. Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories
collects the stories that first appeared in magazines in the 1960s and '70s. For that slightly larger slice of the world that has seen the hysterical 1983 movie A Christmas Story
, the book's characters and setting will be instantly recognizable: the film was cobbled together from Shepherd's stories. (One thing you have to say for the man, not only was he funny, but boy, could he recycle.)
Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories guides you through every triumph and crisis of Shepherd's boyhood. One of the most entertaining involved the hijacking of the family's precious Easter ham:
The kitchen door flew open. It had been left ajar just a crack to let the air come in to cool the ham.
I rushed to the kitchen just in time to see 4,293 blue-ticked Bumpus hounds roar through the screen door in a great, roiling mob. The leader of the pack--the one that almost got my old man every day--leaped high onto the table and grabbed the butt end of the ham in his enormous jaws. They were in and out in less than five seconds.
"HOLY CHRIST!" The old man leaped out of his chair.
"THE HAM! THE HAM! THOSE GODDAMN DOGS! THE HAM!!"
They say comedy is tragedy plus time; that's why growing up is so funny. Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories
--like its author--never disappoints.
"Shepherd has a fine eye for absurdity, for the madness and idiocy in all of us." --Best Sellers