10 January 2017

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

Summary from Goodreads:
For all fans of John Hughes and his hit films such as National Lampoon’s Vacation, Sixteen Candles, and Home Alone, comes Jason Diamond’s hilarious memoir of growing up obsessed with the iconic filmmaker’s movies—a preoccupation that eventually convinces Diamond he should write Hughes’ biography and travel to New York City on a quest that is as funny as it is hopeless.

For as long as Jason Diamond can remember, he’s been infatuated with John Hughes’ movies. From the outrageous, raunchy antics in National Lampoon’s Vacation to the teenage angst in The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink to the insanely clever and unforgettable Home Alone, Jason could not get enough of Hughes’ films. And so the seed was planted in his mind that it should fall to him to write a biography of his favorite filmmaker. It didn’t matter to Jason that he had no qualifications, training, background, platform, or direction. Thus went the years-long, delusional, earnest, and assiduous quest to reach his goal. But no book came out of these years, and no book will. What he did get was a story that fills the pages of this unconventional, hilarious memoir.

In Searching for John Hughes, Jason tells how a Jewish kid from a broken home in a Chicago suburb—sometimes homeless, always restless—found comfort and connection in the likewise broken lives in the suburban Chicago of John Hughes’ oeuvre. He moved to New York to become a writer. He started to write a book he had no business writing. In the meantime, he brewed coffee and guarded cupcake cafes. All the while, he watched John Hughes movies religiously.

Though his original biography of Hughes has long since been abandoned, Jason has discovered he is a writer through and through. And the adversity of going for broke has now been transformed into wisdom. Or, at least, a really, really good story.

In other words, this is a memoir of growing up. One part big dream, one part big failure, one part John Hughes movies, one part Chicago, and one part New York. It’s a story of what comes after the “Go for it!” part of the command to young creatives to pursue their dreams—no matter how absurd they might seem at first.

If you are looking for an actual John Hughes bio, read the blurb and try again.

Searching for John Hughes is an interesting meta-memoir (Diamond's memoir, a little John Hughes biography/filmography, and a little "how this book came into being"). In a year that seemed to have several books and movies that brought back 80s nostalgia, Diamond's book doesn't look back with yearning - he looks back with something akin to relief and maybe a little irritation that he didn't get what was promised him in the movies. His childhood was not easy, his family life was far from ideal, he was homeless for several years in his teens, and the glowing Shermer, IL, promised on the screen didn't exist for him (Diamond grew up in those same Chicago suburbs amalgamated into the Hughes backdrop). After years of work, the book Diamond eventually made is how you get up everyday and keep going.

It's interesting to note that the three 80s film books I read this year (Searching for John Hughes, Brat Pack America, and Life Moves Pretty Fast) are all very different books, like three sides of a triangle.  Diamond's book is a memoir, Smokler's book lies more toward film criticism, and Freeman's book is a lighter pop-culture look at the decade.  All with different perspectives, all great reads.

Dear FTC: I got a review copy of this book from the publisher.

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