Shel Silverstein January 1, 1960 Simon and Schuster
FOREWORD BY JEAN SHEPHERD:
Since Shel Silverstein is a close friend of mine, I would very much like to be able to recommend him to everyone without reservation of any kind. This I cannot do. For one thing, he is not for children, of whatever age. You'll have to determine your own status here. I cannot recommend him to the professional laugher or to anyone who expects to quote him at cocktail parties. Nor is he for the one who laughs with the Right Thinkers (us) against the Boobs and the Slobs (them, of course). He will mystify a large percentage of those who fall into the Freud-Ego-Repression (with added, vague political-fission-fallout overtones) group with has come to expect a warm sense of in-group superiority over poor stumbling mankind with their laughs. In short, if you get your kicks from moralizing over other people's inanities and shortcomings, Shel is not your man. He includes us in all his work and never excludes himself. His humor is that of the Final Absurdity. I suspect Albert Camus would have enjoyed him immensely.
In appearance, he is Neanderthalic: stocky, bearded, vaguely stooped, and unbelievably sloppy. Yet there is also a distinct air of imperious Edwardian dignity about him. He has a New Testament face that is strong and hawk-like and that gives the impression that he is about to build an ark. Which is probably true. He plays the banjo, trombone, and bugle, and shouts the blues (Elektra Records) in the hoarse, rasping voice of a ball-park hot-dog vendor, which he actually was for four years at Comiskey Park, the home of the Chicago White Sox. It could be that he developed his sense of absurdity during this period of close contact with the Sox Silverstein is one of those rare people whose cave can be properly called, without embarrassment, his "digs". I have known only one other establishment with a fanged tiger-skin rug, a foot-operated, hand-carved pipe organ, 18,000 volumes of forgotten lore, two monstrous overstuffed easy chairs found discarded on the sidewalks of New York, a fielder's mitt (Duck Medwick Model), a balsa-wood hat rack carved in the shape of Teddy Roosevelt wearing veldt dress, an antique water-operated portable typewriter, and over three hundred rare unwashed dishes dating back to the Late Bronze Age.
He lives in Greenwich Village surrounded by things that go bump in the night. Shel is the only continuously funny man I have ever known. Ideas for humor flow from him in such a rich, prolific stream that he frightens most of the rest of us who work in the field. He is also one of the very few people I have ever known who really don't worry about popular success. There are Official Experts who fell that, as a line pen-and-ink artist, he is one of the finest America has yet produced. I concur. He draws like an inspired fiend. However, he is cursed by a restlessness that has driven him all over the world for years at a time. This restlessness comes from a great love of life and an insatiable thirst for the living of it. It has also kept him from turning out the great body of work that is in him. I feel that if, for one year, Silverstein could somehow be locked in a room with two broken legs, a supply of paper and ink, his banjo, and a radio to hear the ball games, Ring Lardner, Don Marquis, George Herriman and company would welcome another worthy into the Club. I am proud he is my friend.