The nuttiness is spreading in our land," declares Jean Shepherd, and he turns his high-intensity verbal strobe lights on some of the Idiocies, hang-ups, delusions and fantasies of the day. What a delight!
In 21 witty commentaries he is devastating on such matters as role reversal ("The Man of the Future May Be a Woman"), the auto as a way of life ("The Drive-In-Confessional"), our great gadget obsession ("Abercrombie's Bitch"), and confusion over the constitutional right to pursue happiness ("Nowhere is It even Implied that you will ever catch up with that particular electric rabbit ... ").
Here is Shepherd In the first-class section or a jet observing a precious empathizer with the Common Man Fighting Against the Forces of Evil:
"Here's this angry, beat-looking kid sprawled out there in his foam rubber seat, his safely belt unhooked, a battered guitar case beside him. This angry kid, all tanned from Fire Island where the Crusade for Truth is swelling like a mighty organ that cannot be ignored. He's tanned and wearing a pair of Levis carefully torn in all the right places. It cost his old man a lot of bucks for that pair of Levis - torn, faded, and worn as if they've been worn building the Union Pacific by
hand, fighting the Terrible Depression or the Thirties, scrabbling out or the stony soil a hard crust of bread for a poor, honest man, just a-livin' in This Land, just a-tryin' to Love and a-tryin' to Understand and Live as simple, pure Heart with his Fellows, his Brothers and Sisters all over This Land.
"The stewardess bends over him to say, 'More champagne, sir?'"
"Yeah, fill it up ..."
Even as you and I, Shepherd wonders constantly, "What have I got myself into?" It hits him vividly in room 5308 of the Playboy Club-Hotel of which he says, "This place makes Howard Johnsons look like a den or pure depravity." He Is in Lake Geneva to co-star in one of those improbable celebrity outdoor TV shows (he had hoped to be tapped for the Bimini sequence and big tuna, but his Everyman destiny lands him in midwinter Wisconsin for bluegill ice fishing).
In the end, after catching a bluegill, we see him as he sees himself, slipping and sliding over a vast field of ice and snow in a Chaplinesque scene or pure surrealism, pursuing the synthetic cottontail blown by icy winds from the costume bottom of a Playboy Bunny.
But The Ferrari in the Bedroom is not all sardonic comment. Shepherd gives us several warm (but never sugary) vignettes of nostalgia. He recalls, for example, what it was like to be a boy in Indiana attending, for the first time, that unique Hoosier religious rite - the Indy 500. Maybe you thought of Indy as the roar of cars, the glory of victory, the agony of defeat. Read Shepherd and learn how it really is - the guys who wait in line for two weeks, the infield full of beer guzzlers and pinochle players, drunken Uncle Carl, Sneaky Uncle Al, the trunk of the old Olds packed with everything from mustard to spare can openers.
Along the way he also manages a couple of travel pieces on Maine and Alaska. He can tell you about "the hulks of six generations of family cars surrounding every Maine farmhouse" and you'll still want to go.
About that Ferarri. It's a bed (honest!), a jazzy fiberglass replica of a Ferarri sports car complete with STP decals. Shepherd spotted an ad for it in a dentist's reception room.
There is a nasty rumor that Shepherd is a latter-day and lesser George Ade or Mark Twain. Hmmph! Shepherd is ... Shepherd, a no-nonsense Hoosier marinated in New York vinegar, a sharp observer who writes with an IBM ribbon dipped in vitriol and affection. He Is not for the old lady from Dubuque, If such still exists (or ever did), for he throws about with wild abandon rude words and vulgarisms. But his wit can purge the dumb fury most of us feel at life's outrages, as when he leads you thru the fetid streets of Fun City smack into a carelessly deposited pile of puppy-poo - and leaves you laughing.
If you won't pamper yourself with The Ferarri in the Bedroom, give it to someone who can be counted on to loan it back. Unless, of course, you are the old lady from Dubuque. ||
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