Even if the name Jean Shepherd is unfamiliar, you know his wistful, sardonic work if you've ever watched A Christmas Story with your family during the holidays, and we all do. An essayist, raconteur, humorist, and collector of common truths and bittersweet trips down memory lane, Shepherd inspired Garrison Keillor, Spalding Gray, and Jerry Seinfeld.
Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories is complied from stories that first appeared in Playboy and it touches on a few bits you will recognize from a Christmas Story: the Bumpess's dogs and the subsequent holiday meal at a Chinese restaurant, and you'll recognize the bullies and the best friends, but there's a lot to discover here, in my dad's favorite of his books, for those not familiar with his writing.
The stories take us through a sometimes painful, sometimes magical childhood in a steel town in Indiana; from being very young, filled with excitement about a family road trip, to finding just the right top to battle with on the playground, to eventually discovering girls and the humiliation that goes with it.
Shepherd had such a unique voice and it's ironic sentimentality was way ahead of it's time. Sadly, he passed away in 1999 but it's not too late to discover his work.