When the film A Christmas Story came out in the early 1980s, I was already a veteran Jean Shepherd fan. I’d read In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash and the other examples of Shepherd in nostalgia mode, and seen the Shepherd-based film The Phantom of the Open Hearth, but A Christmas Story was the most perfectly realized visualization of Shepherd’s world that I’d ever seen, and it’s been fun to watch the film slowly assume its position as an immovable Yuletide classic along the lines of It’s A Wonderful Life. It’s also fun to introduce fans of the film to Shepherd’s other modes: the radio hipster and king of the “night people,” and the jazz improviser whose work on The Clown gave Charles Mingus his long-sought merger of words and music.
Even so, I’m not about to buy the leg lamp featured in the film, nor do I plan to visit the Christmas Story House that some entrepreneurial fan is refurbishing back to its original state from the movie. Like that guy with his Field of Dreams cornfield, the SHep fan in question has decided that if you refurbish it (or, in this case, retrofit it), they will come. I am going to finish Excelsior, You Fathead, which may not turn out to be the best biography of Shepherd (what I’ve read so far is pretty erratic) but will probably be the only one.