Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Book Review: "Searching for John Hughes: Or Everything I Thought I Needed to Know about Life I Learned from Watching '80s Movies" by Jason Diamond

As I've remarked on countless occasions, I'm kind of obsessed with all things 1980s. That was the decade of middle school, high school, and part of college, so it represents some pretty significant times in my life, and the movies, television shows, music, celebrities, and other pop culture phenomena of that decade served as touch points, a soundtrack and backdrop along the way.

I'm also a huge movie buff, so I remember spending an immense amount of time at the movies in the 80s, or watching videos over and over again. John Hughes' movies—in particular, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful and Ferris Bueller's Day Off—still are among my favorites, and I can still recite lines from each of them at any time. (Scarily enough, I can even tell you who I was with when I saw these movies for the first time, and where we saw them. Egads.)

Needless to say, when I first heard about Jason Diamond's book, I couldn't wait to read it. Another Hughes fan, who actually was passionate enough about his movies to write a book about them?

"Hughes accomplished the almost impossible task of making me feel inspired. They made me feel as if I could get out and be better. I related to the teens in his movies, their happiness, their sadness, the anger, angst, and longing."

Searching for John Hughes is Diamond's account of his (immensely) troubled childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, his (incredibly) troubled relationships with his parents, his inability to do much in school except take drugs and zone out, and his struggle to make something of himself and be happy with himself as he grew older. Hughes' movies provided comfort, inspiration, a feeling of kinship, and it was finally the man behind the movies who became the focus of Diamond's obsession, his quest to write Hughes' biography.

I guess I never dug more into the description of this book than the title, because I really expected it to be a discussion of Hughes' movies and their significance to pop culture at the time they were released, and why so many of them continue to endure today, for kids who weren't alive in the 1980s and (shudder) 1990s. Instead, this was more of a memoir of a guy trying desperately to make it in spite of really difficult circumstances, of trying to find a purpose, and find confidence in his future.

Diamond is a really good writer, but his story is really, really harrowing, so much so it became difficult to read after a while. The fact that he found the strength to keep moving forward despite so much adversity, and finally has a career as a writer after spending years writing whatever came to mind is tremendously inspiring. I would love to read more of his writing, but this book just didn't click for me, especially because I was expecting something totally different.

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