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Around 1956, Jean Shepherd launched a hoax on his radio show as a dig at [pseudo-]intellectuals. He made up a fake bawdy novel, I, Libertine, and urged his listeners (who were in on it) to ask their booksellers for it. The book got quite a bit of attention, and a number of Shepherd's targets pretended to know more about it than existed. Eventually, the hoax was admitted, and Ballantine Books, which had been eager to publish the book, proved still eager to publish the book. Shepherd was offered a deal, and he accepted, bringing Theodore Sturgeon in on the writing, and the two penned the tome under the name "Frederick R. Ewing," and it was published with a handsome cover by Kelly Freas.

Every so often, I look for the book. An ebook would suffice, I think, since the real paperback goes for right around $40 to $50. My quest invariably fails. (Edited to add: A great cover, too, replete with in-jokes like "EXCELSIOR" and symbolic representations of 'Sturgeon' (the fish on the sign) and 'Shepherd' (the shepherd's crook on the sign) showing Freas's puckish humor at work.)



I do feel, though, that I hit it about as lucky as I'm likely to today: there is an audiobook. Thirteen chapters, plus introduction, can be found at the Shep Archives at flicklives.com. They bear a copyright date of 2006. I see that they are also available at montclair.edu, with filesizes twice as large, or larger, so they must be better!

It's a bit late, so I'm not going to hear it tonight. But I thought I'd share what seems to be my good fortune. If any of you (Bud Webster?) knows where I can get a copy for a fraction of the prices I've found so far, I'd like to know about it.
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He sat at his table, dregs of Victory Hunny unlicked on his cheeks. He sat very still, not even brushing away a fat fly that came to inspect the glistening stickiness on his face. He tried to hum a hum, but all he could think of was “Three fours are fifteen.” And sometimes it came out “Three fours is fifteen,” and he didn’t know which was which. Owl came by with a Very Important Message about the Progress in the War Against Heffalumps and he listened attentively to it.

It didn’t matter. He knew that the Heffalumps would be defeated, just as he knew they would always be fighting them. It did not bother him a bit to hold both these thoughts fervently. He smiled slightly and hummed, “Three fours are fifteen.” He would do anything for Christopher Robin. He would give Eeyore over, just as Piglet had given him over, and for the same reason: love. The love of wonderful Christopher Robin, from whom all goodness flowed.

A tear twinkled from one eye and slowly tickled its way down his cheek. Winston Pooh was happy, happier than he’d ever thought possible. He was a Silly Old Bear.
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"I enjoyed perfect health throughout the following year, and nobody tried to assassinate me, and the one revolution that was attempted ended in a most ignominious way for its prime mover. This was Asinius Gallus, grandson of Asinius Pollio and son of Tiberius's first wife, Vipsania, by Gallus whom she afterwards married and whom Tiberius hated so and finally killed by slow starvation. It is curious how appropriate some people's names are. Gallus means cock, and Asinus means donkey, and Asinius Gallus was the most utter little donkey-cock for his boastfulness and stupidity that one could find in a month's tour of Italy. Imagine, he had not got any troops ready or collected any funds for his revolution, but believed that the strength of his personality supported by the nobility of his birth would win him immediate adherents!

"He appeared one day on the Oration Platform in the Market Place and began to hold forth to a crowd which soon assembled, on the evils of tyranny, dwelling on my uncle Tiberius's murder of his father, and saying how, necessary it was to root out the Caesar family from Rome and give the monarchy to someone really worthy of it. From his mysterious hints the crowd gathered that he meant himself and began to laugh and cheer. He was a wretched orator and the ugliest man in the Senate, not more than four foot six in height, with bottle-shoulders, a great long face, reddish hair, and a tiny little bright red nose (he suffered from indigestion); yet he thought himself Hercules and Adonis rolled into one. There was not, I believe, a single person in the Market Place who took him seriously, and all sorts of jokes went flying about such as: 'Asinus in tegulls' and 'Asinus ad lyram' and 'Ex Gallo lac et ova.' (A donkey on the roof-tiles is a proverbial expression for any sudden grotesque apparition, and a donkey playing on a lyre stands for any absurdly incompetent performance, and cock's milk and cock's eggs stand for nonsensical hopes.) However, they went on cheering every sentence to see what absurdity would come next: and sure enough, when his speech' ended he tried to lead the whole mob up to the Palace to depose me. They followed him in a long column, eight abreast, up to about twenty paces from the outer Palace Gate and then suddenly halted and let him go on by himself, which he did. The sentries at the gate let him through without question, because he was a senator, and he went marching on into the Palace grounds for some distance, shouting threats against me, before he realized that he was alone. (Crowds can be very witty and very cruel sometimes, as well as very stupid and very cowardly.) He was soon arrested, and although the whole affair was so ridiculous I could; hardly overlook it: I banished him, but no farther than Sicily, where he had family estates.

"'Go away and crow on your own dung-hill or bray in your own thistle-field, whichever you prefer, but don't let me hear you,' I told the ugly, excitable little man."

from Claudius the God by Robert Graves
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Reading matter: The Library of America's volume Kaufman & Co is a set of Broadway comedies George S. Kaufman wrote, each in collaboration with another writer. It includes a stage version of "Animal Crackers," as well as "Of Thee I Sing" and a handful of other great shows, all seemingly about show business people. The Library of America also has excellent volumes of the works of Mark Twain, James Thurber (one volume), Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and many others I'm less inclined to find interesting. I bought the volume of Poe's literary criticism, & still haven't made a serious dent in it, and it isn't for lack of trying. It's a bit abstruse for me, but I had to buy it to find that out. I keep telling myself, some day I'll grok this stuff.

Listening material: I've ordered it, and it hasn't arrived yet, but I feel as if I know it already. There's good reason for this. I'm talking about Liszt's settings of Gregorian melodies yclept "Responsories & Antiphons." If the link to Amazon dot com is good, you can follow it to audio samples -- not just a few, but samples of every track, up to a minute's worth. Many of the tracks are shorter than that, so the samples are the entire track. There are 109 tracks, probably about 100 minutes of music, out of 153 or so I seem to recall. Yes, here it is! The description on Hyperion's page gives a total time of 153'21, and has a summary of the track info. What generosity... Amazon is pretty much giving away (albeit at lo-fi streaming) almost 2/3 of the album. It was enough for me to decide to take a chance on it. I got the cheap used one!
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