Edsel by Karl Shapiro

I have found a copy of Edsel and have started reading it. Soon I will include my own review. In the mean time enjoy the words of my friend, Mark Baldridge:

Karl Shapiro wishes he were Henry Miller. And thank God for that. How good would his novel "Edsel" have been if he didn't? As it is, of course, it's plenty good and you don't have to be a local to recognize that. The book is set in Lincoln, NE though you might not make the connection if you didn't know Shapiro had Lived in Lincoln. That's right, and he edited that Heartland Hometown's prestigious "Prarie Schooner" from 1956 to 1966. Edsel, main character for whom the book is titled, is a thinly veiled Karl Shapiro, Pulitzer Prize winning poet and teacher at Milo State University whose football team and meileu of cornfields can only represent Lincoln's own UNL. Edsel is Karl's alter ego, pulling off stunts which no one should attribute to the highly respected Shapiro. These are merely his sordid dreams of drugs and sex in a small, Midwestern University town. But when it was published in 1971 this 'fiction' caused quite a stir in a real small, Midwestern University town, scandalizing the uprite and the upwardly mobile. "Edsel" was Lincoln's "Peyton Place". Story is, it cost its author his job. If that's true then the jokes on us: this book is calculated to get somebody fired. Every line is barbed pointed directly at the self-righteousness it so perfectly indignates.

You read the author's distaste for middle America in every page. The subtext here is that a man can get himself unfairly fired, point blank, into a crowd, intentionally as a ploy to make his bosses look bad and himself look good. The ignorant hicks of Nebraska come off looking pretty shabby for axing a guy just because he made them look like ignorant hicks. And that was just what Shapiro wanted. He's no fool, this one. Growing up Jewish in the American South may have sharpened his wits somewhat. His book, at least, is witty... shot though with razors... a study in the modern epigram. It is a pedanic book: Shapiro delights in putting questionable grammer in his characters mouths and then picking at the flaws. But it knows it is pedantic in a way that only great gulps of Henry Miller can brace an author to attempt. The author of "Edsel" is painting himself as an ass. It is himself he stabs at, tears at, picks at like a bird. The others, characters in a book who must almost recognize themselves as real people parodied and whittled to a point (a notable incognito cameo goes to Allen Ginzburg) are really only foils of Edsel's anti-hero. "Edsel" is a real fun read, a must for the library of every literate Nebraskan, and a nice break from Tropic of Cancer when you need one.

Mark Baldridge is a student at the University of Nebraska, a writer, and performance artist to name a few things besides being very astute.

Karl Shapiro is a Pulitzer Prize winning Poet and perhaps a very much overlooked one. I urge you to check out Karl Shapiro's poetry! You will not be disappointed!

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