night people vs. day people
June 29, 2008 2:17 PM   Subscribe

Jean Shepherd has been mentioned before but WFMU's Beware of the Blog has finally dug out an mp3 of Shepherd himself telling the story of "I, Libertine" (mp3 link) (wiki). I, Libertine was a literary hoax that began as a practical joke. Shepherd asked his listeners ("the Night People") to go into bookstores and ask for a book that didn't exist. Fueled by bewildered bookstore owners and distributors, I, Libertine eventually did end up as a genuine bestseller, proving his point that the process of choosing bestsellers was flawed.
posted by krautland (11 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Ah, this is such a great story, nice to hear it in radio form.
posted by phrontist at 2:30 PM on June 29, 2008

The Jean Shepherd Archives has recently gone dark (ugh), but vast reservoirs (600+ shows) of concentrated Shep radio goodness may yet be tapped in podcast form via The Brass Figlalee (iTunes, etc). Moreover, there's much else of interest at Flick Lives, including weekly postings of previously unavailable shows from 1963, when Shepherd was arguably at the top of his game.

That said, the 'I, Libertine' thing was a hoot and a half. Shepherd also anticipated the flashmob phenomenon by 40 years or so by encouraging late-night listeners to assemble their cars in specific vacant parking lots, thus bewildering night-shift cops who encountered a few dozen cars parked at 4am, all listening to the same radio station, as well as inspiring Howard Beale's "I'm mad as hell" go-to-the-window move from 'Network.'
posted by Kinbote at 3:13 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm reminded of the Yellow Pages advert for 'Fly Fishing by J. R. Hartley' - this was for a nonexistent book that turn real (though not a bestseller) - from Wikipedia "An author who had brought out a book about fly fishing in 1991 noted how much of a cult figure the fictional Hartley had become, and published it under the pseudonym J R Hartley. Two further books on the subject followed, under the same name."
posted by azlondon at 3:15 PM on June 29, 2008

I'm gonna go against the tide and say that this guy is a bloody snooze. I can't even finish listening to this. I'm just over a quarter into it and he still hasn't started the story. Instead this guy's rambling on about 18 million tangents. As I hit close on the window he's bragging about inventing the term "night person". The guy's a self-congratulating windbag who thinks he has to explain everything 4 times because no one's smart enough to understand his "complex" ideas.

Yeah yeah, I must be a day person.
posted by dobbs at 3:28 PM on June 29, 2008

I'm just over a quarter into it and he still hasn't started the story.

Um, yeah ... that's a key part of Jean's bit.

/night person
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:56 PM on June 29, 2008 [3 favorites] has a little more Jean; you have to poke around but there are some MP3s in there.
posted by ftrain at 8:31 PM on June 29, 2008

This is way too fucking cool. I'd listen to Shepherd talk about anything and everything (which he usually does) and I've never heard of the whole I, Libertine thing. Thanks.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:56 PM on June 29, 2008

Wonderful--thanks! Oh, and Excelsior!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:19 PM on June 29, 2008

woah woah woah, Kinbote! This page is the third link on a google search for "jean shepherd howard beale" on all of the interwebs.

Now if I could just find the actual quote that inspired my favorite character of movieville, I will be set.

(thanks Krautland!)
posted by OrangeDrink at 1:23 AM on June 30, 2008

Why does this prove his point that the process of making bestsellers is flawed? If the book completely sucked, the publicity wouldn't have helped--or was he claiming that it's flawed for celebrity to sell books? If so, I say welcome to the real world...
posted by Maias at 6:11 PM on June 30, 2008

Maias missed a key point: the book was a bestseller before anybody thought of actually writing it.
posted by gwalla at 8:10 PM on July 1, 2008

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