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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters by Jean Shepherd

Excellent. Absolutely Excellent.

Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters is written by the man who co-wrote and narrates the classic movie A Christmas Story, Jean Shepherd (1921-1999). Shepherd's book  In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash is the inspiration for that movie, although the infamous dogs in the kitchen scene comes from Wanda Hickey.

If you love the movie A Christmas Story, you will absolutely enjoy this book. Set in Hammond, Indiana (he fictionalizes it as Hohman, Indiana) in the 1930s, Wanda Hickey is actually a set of 8 semi-fictional short stories loosely based on actual people and events in Shepherd's life. Hohman is described as being "nestled picturesquely between the looming steel mills and the verminously aromatic oil refineries and encircled by a colorful conglomerate of city dumps and fetid rivers" which is an unkind, but not inacurrate description of Indiana's industrial northwest corner.

Jean Shepherd

These short stories cover Shepherd's youth from elementary school to his high school prom (his date is the Wanda Hickey from the title). Shepherd's genius in story-telling is his ability to take a fairly normal situation and somehow milk it for every bit of humor and add a bit of wisdom in the re-telling. All of the stories were originally published in Playboy magazine from 1966-1970.

The Bumpus Hounds from
A Christmas Story

He begins with The Grandstand Passion Play of Delbert and the Bumpus Hounds. If you have ever had bad neighbors - neighbors with no concept of cleaning up after themselves or keeping their arguments and music inside the house - you will appreciate this story. As a bonus, this is the story that contains the infamous dogs in the kitchen scene from the movie A Christmas Story. However, in this story, it is an Easter ham, not a Christmas turkey.

Three other stories deal with Jean as a younger child. I enjoyed them all but particularly enjoyed County Fair! Three of the last four deal with Jean's forays into the world of dating and The Return of the Smiling Wimpy Doll is about the memories stirred up by a crate of childhood toys that are sent to an adult Jean Shepherd in New York City.

An absolute joy to read. 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon here: Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories: And Other Disasters

Reviewed January 2, 2011.

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1 comment:

  1. Yes, Jean Shepherd's published-in-print stories are a delight. Those who admire them should be made aware that he originally told them, improvised, on his radio broadcasts. Over 30 years after his last broadcast, many hundreds of audios of these programs are readily avvailable for little or no cost through such sources as www.flicklives.com, brassfiglagee.com, and on CDs sold cheaply on ebay and elsewhere. Shepherd's creative works are alive and well. The only book describing and discussing his creative career, my EXCEELSIOR, YOU FATHEAD! THE ART AND ENIGMA OF JEAN SHEPHERD, is also available in stores(sometimes) and through internet booksellers. EXCELSIOR!