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Excelsior!, Shep. I Miss You,
This review is from: Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories: And Other Disasters (Paperback)
If you only know Jean Shepherd from the television film that ebodies three or four of his stories (A Christmas Story), you know that his take on youth, the vagaries of circumstance, the whole process of growing up, supporting a family, simply living, is skewed, and occasionally skewered by a delicious sense of humor.
If you were lucky enough to be raised in the Greater New York City Metro area and its suburbs, then you will remember Shep's story telling, nightly, on Radio Station WOR, over whose airwaves he spun tale after tale of Ralphie, Randy, their beleagured parents, Schwartz, Flick, Scut Farkas, and the others who inhabited Depression-era middle America; you know his army experiences; you relived his skirmishes with arrogance and foolishness on the streets of New York City; above all, you knew Shep. And you loved him.
His apparently easy off-the-cuff style is, of course, anything but. His written words are fashioned with consummate skill and craft. His intuition into the building of a narrative fictional event is nonpareil. His brilliance with the carefully chosen metaphor, sentence, word, glints off every facet of his gemlike contributions to American letters. He was a terrific writer. It's that simple, but because he did not write gut-squeezing Major Literary Stuff, he will be, unfortunately, forgotten.
But not to his devotees. His stories in 'Wanda Hickey...' will force you to put down the book and laugh long, hard, and uncontrollably. His understanding of the gentleness and fragility of the human spirit comes through his stories like the sweet homey smell of your grandfather's pipe smoke wafting up to your bedroom when you are beginning to dream. Shep makes you appreciate what he was, what you were, what you are just because he chose to be a writer.
And yes, when he died a few years ago, I was immeasurably saddened. I was hoping for just one more book, one more story, one more sentence from Jean Shepherd. That's why Wanda Hickey and those who lived in her world, all told about to us from the first person point of Ralphie's view, are so necessary to me, to all of us. Even disaster has its funny and charming moments, so let's not take ourselves too seriously. Shep will never let us forget that.
Excelsior! old friend. I'm glad you're still around.
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Initial post: Aug 30, 2010 9:55:58 AM PDT
I feel as you do. I was about 11 years old when I began to listen to Shep on my tiny transistor radio (with the covers over my head!). The story I remember best was the transmitting device he hid in the garage and then overheard (the horror) his parents discussing having sex LOL, still makes me laugh. I know there's an online site where you can hear some of the material he presented in his programs. This man made mincemeat out of the talking heads polluting the radio airwaves now.
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