by Jean Shepherd
"Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories and other Disasters" is the second book by Mr. Jean, published in the early seventies. Never heard of him? How about the cult film "A Christmas Story"? Jean wrote the screenplay for that film, borrowing HEAVILY from his first book "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash". The decade-later movie sequel "It Runs in the Family" is based more on this book, although each borrows freely from the other. For those familiar with the movies, the writing in these books is just as sharp and funny as the movie. You will find the ever-whining little brother, Flick, Schwartz, Kissel, mom and dad, and, as always, the Bumpus family, all within the pages of this here book. For those not familiar with Jean's work, this book (and "In God We Trust") was probably the basis for the "Wonder Years" TV series, although these stories don't end in little moral "insights". The story telling is very dry, nostalgic without being sickening, and the word "effluvia" rears it's head many times. While "In God We Trust" tells stories from the authors early years, these tales are from junior high and high school, back in a time when high school kids still retained some innocence. Within, you will find stories of the junior prom night, a box of forgotten toys mailed from back home, a date with the school goddess and the painful lesson on social strata, and many others. While perhaps a bit darker than the first book (the author and his friends dicuss the very real possibility of being drafted and knowing kids whose brothers have died in the war), "Wanda Hickey" is an engrossing read. Supremely recommended! 4 Gristles!