This book was selected for the inaugural post because it captures the 1962 zeitgeist and a bit of family history. As shown on the cover, the Village Voice Reader prominently features Jean Shepherd of WOR radio and “Christmas Story” fame. Jean was married to my aunt — the lovely and talented actress, Lois Nettleton. She was an avid reader– the walls of her NY apartment were lined with books on art, humor, and philosophy. Her collection provides a view into the intellectual and artistic climate of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. These books were bequeathed to me and are the subject of the blog.
Many books in the collection, including this one, were acquired during her 1960-1967 marriage to Jean. When he first arrived in NY, Jean wrote for the Village Voice. According to wfmu.org, Jean Shepherd “evoked New York’s beat scene during the 1950s, spinning first-hand vignettes of Kerouac, Mingus, Feiffer and Ginsberg.” Quite the line-up.
This first edition is a short story compilation featuring Jean and his Greenwich Village pals. It includes “The Hip and the Square” by Norman Mailer and the intriguing "The Hip Historian Knows a Man's Pad is His Castle' by Suzanne Kiplinger.
The inside jacket provides this description:
" As most people know, Greenwich Village is that way out, Bohemian section of America located somewhere in New York City where tourists, flock to gawk, teenagers crowd for kicks, and where everyone listens to poetry. "The Village" is beats and beards, arts and jazz, intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals, the square, the hip, and the coffee houses. It is also a splendid residential district, a slum, an idea, a spirit, a fraud."
This captures some of the magic I felt when Lois visited my family in our small NJ town when I was a child. She brought a bit of this fairy dust and excitement that I hoped would rub off on me. The book's language, design, and typography evoke warm memories of her and of the longing created in me for a life beyond suburbia.
The book also tells us something about the roots of the Village Voice:
"In 1955 two young men, once a practicing psychologist and the other a scholar in philosophy, started an unorthodox weekly in Greenwich Village. of course, their background equipped them perfectly for newspaper publishing. The Voice was originally conceived as a living, breathing attempt to demolish the notion that one needs to be a professional or accomplish something in a field as purportedly technical as journalism. We wanted to jam the gears of creeping automatism. The newspaper succeeded."
So the Village Voice was a father to the blogger, giving a platform to those outside the established media. The viewpoints expressed by the Voice rarely reflect my own, but props to the founding visionaries for understanding the human need for creative expression.
And with that I close, grateful for the opportunity to share my voice with you. Hat tip to John Bowab for making this possible. Until next time.