Hi Everybody! It was a close race for October’s book selection, but the cocaine fueled Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney won by a nose!
With the publication of Bright Lights, Big City in 1984, Jay McInerney became a literary sensation, heralded as the voice of a generation. The novel follows a young man, living in Manhattan as if he owned it, through nightclubs, fashion shows, editorial offices, and loft parties as he attempts to outstrip mortality and the recurring approach of dawn. With nothing but goodwill, controlled substances, and wit to sustain him in this anti-quest, he runs until he reaches his reckoning point, where he is forced to acknowledge loss and, possibly, to rediscover his better instincts. This remarkable novel of youth and New York remains one of the most beloved, imitated, and iconic novels in America.
This book is only 182 pages, so it should be a pretty good read.
If you have not joined the free GenX Book Club yet, there are a couple of places where you can sign up.
If you are on Facebook, there is a Facebook Group.
Or if you are not on Facebook, you can go to Bookclubs.com.
We can have some great discussions throughout the month.
For the rest of this month, we can talk about some of our favorite books. We could even talk about books that were made into movies, and discuss which were good and which were bad.
So , I hope you can come join us. And you can get started on Bright Lights, Big City anytime.
Special announcement – The GenX Book Club is up and running, and we will begin discussing the first selection this October!
The Book club can be found as a Facebook Group or can be found on Bookclubs.com for those of you not on Facebook.
We will select one book a month (for the time being) that members of Generation X will enjoy. It may be an autobiography/biography of a Gen X celebrity, or books that take place from the 1970s through the 1990s, or books that members of Gen X grew up reading. All generations are welcome here because we’re cool like that. There will be discussions throughout the month, and a Zoom meeting at the end of the month, which may be aired on the Return to the ’80s podcast. I will also try to get the author of the selected book on the call/podcast.
We are finally back with a new podcast episode of Return to the ’80s! On this show, Paul and Del welcome author Todd “T.G.” Monahan. T.G. has released a novel that takes place in a time that is near and dear to our hearts – the 80s! The story takes place in the summer of 1989. It is a coming-of-age story as Seb deals with bullies, tries to win the attention of a girl, and goes on a mission to make enough money to buy the Dreamin’ and become a world-renowned radio-controlled pilot, earning his father’s respect. It has all the elements of a great ’80s story, and actually takes place in the ’80s.
So, check out this episode as Todd discusses his book with us, and we talk a little ’80s and ’90s.
If you’d like to contact Todd, and/or order the book, he can be reached in the following places:
Hi Everybody! As Valentine’s Day is approaching, we are recording a new Return to the ’80s podcast episode on ’80s crushes. And we would LOVE to hear from you. Ha! See what I did there? Seriously, please email us at Returnto80s@gmail.com, and tell us about some of your ’80s crushes. It could be about a celebrity, or maybe that person you sat behind in class that you secretly (or publicly) pined for. We may read your story on the air. If you don’t want it to be read on the air, let us know, and we can have a fun back-and-forth via email.
It was 1981 and I was sitting in my grandparent’s living room in Valkenburg a/d Geul, the Netherlands. My grandfather and I were waiting for the weekly Saturday soccer highlight show to start and, to fill air time, the station was, as expected, showing music videos. As I watched the first video, I saw a large black and white face begin to fill the screen. The music was quiet – it had an almost foreboding feel to it. I was about to walk away and get a drink, but something made me stay. I watched the video, wondering the entire time what was going on. I did not like the music much, but I did like the singer’s voice and I was intrigued by the song’s haunting sound. I kept watching and the song built a bit and then, seemingly out of nowhere, a burst of drums blasts from the TV. I was taken aback — and hooked. The song was “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins, so the Monday, after school, I went to my favorite record store and bought the album Face Value.
This was my first experience with the artist whose career I would follow for the next three decades. I bought every Collins album as soon as each was released – I went back and bought the Genesis albums that he sang on and then bought all future Genesis releases. Don’t believe me? As I look through my music collection now, I see:
Phil Collins albums:Face Value (original and remastered 2015), Hello, I Must Be Going (original and remastered 2015), No Jacket Required (original and remastered 2015), . . . But Seriously (original and remastered 2015), Serious Hits Live, Both Sides (original and remastered 2015), Dance Into the Light, Testify, Love Songs: A Compilation . . .Old and New, Going Back, and The Singles. Yes, both Tarzan and Brother Bear are missing – I just couldn’t.
Genesis albums:A Trick of the Tail, Wind and Wuthering, And Then There WereThree, Duke, Abacab, Genesis, Invisible Touch, We Can’t Dance, Turn It On Again. There are still a few live albums I need to acquire.
You see? I like me some Phil Collins! I do not like all albums equally, in fact, I have been disappointed in a few, but I have never stopped listening to him. When I read, and finally saw, that he was releasing an autobiography, I was excited and a bit nervous. I am a picky reader and I was worried that the writing would not be very good. Also, I did not want my vision of him ruined with “the truth.” Despite my trepidations, I picked up the autobiography, Not Dead Yet, and started reading.
I was not disappointed. The writing is not horrible as he dictated his stories, organized them, and put them in written form – the book sounds like Collins is talking to you. He has a clever sense of humor and tries his best to be honest. This is difficult as he has been married three time which, as a whole he takes responsibility for his role in the ending of all three marriages (although, presently Collins and his third wife are back together, but not married). Collins organizes his stories chronologically starting with his childhood days, his time with Genesis as a drummer and then vocalist, his solo career, and his comeback. The stories are real and full of insights on how some of his great songs were created. This is by no means an expose, but Collins does broach some touchy situations with professionalism and no true axe to grind.
I do want everyone to read Not Dead Yet, so I am not going to give away all of the cool stuff, but I do want to intrigue you all a bit, so what follows are a few interesting tidbits from Collins’ book.
Collins’ interest in show business started with acting. He attended a fine arts performance high school and wanted to be an actor. As a boy, he played the Artful Dodger in Oliver. Clearly, he pursued a career as a drummer and played in several bands before joining Genesis. This acting bug resurfaced when Collins stared in Buster and made appearances in Miami Vice and Hook.
Collins hesitantly replaced Peter Gabriel as the lead vocalist of Genesis. After auditioning many potential vocalists, Tony Banks (keyboards) and Mike Rutherford (guitars) encouraged Collins to try the lead vocals. Everyone liked what they heard and the rest is history. Collins did not think he could be the lead vocalist and play drums for the band in concert. So, when performing live, Chester Thompson played drums while Collins was the front man. Collins maintained Thompson for his live solo shows. During all Genesis and solo shows, there would be segments (mostly instrumentals) in the show where Collins would jump back on the drum kit. Despite all of the many things Collins did during his career, he always came back to drumming as his ultimate love.
“In the Air Tonight” has nothing to do with witnessing a drowning. It is a bitter song about the breakup of his first marriage. “Well, if you told me you were drowning / I would not lend a hand / I’ve seen your face before my friend / But I don’t know if you know who I am” is nothing more than some really hard feelings about the way that first marriage ended. Collins is fully aware now that the constant touring and recording schedule that Genesis maintained was a recipe to end any marriage, but he was totally driven by the work.
The Genesis song “Since I Lost You “ from the We Can’t Dance album was written for his good friend Eric Clapton, whose son died in a tragic accident. Collins played it for him, asking his permission to include it on the album, saying that he would gladly drop it if Clapton did not approve. Clapton loved it and played “Tears in Heaven” for Collins; both men cried with each other that night and remain good friends today. Clapton appears on the Collins albums Face Value and . . . But Seriously.
“Since I Lost You”:
“I Wish it Would Rain Down”:
The title to Collins’ #1 hit “Sussudio” from No Jacket Required means nothing! Both as a solo artist and as a member of Genesis, the writing of the songs came in a similar manner. The musicians would be in a room together and play. The music was almost always written before any lyrics came about. While working on No Jacket Required, Collins was working on the music and, as was typical, needed to improvise lyrics. He used the word “sussudio” as a place holder. The song started to take shape and lyrics were added, but “sussudio” fit so well he decided to leave it.
One last one: Many people have said that there is some contention between Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins after he replaced him as Genesis lead vocalist. Collins insists that this is not true. He feels that he and Gabriel are still good friends as was evident when the original members reunited for a BBC documentary Genesis: Together and Apart.
Documentary (1 ½ hours long):
For ‘80s music fans Not Dead Yet is a must read. It is full of insights to Collins’ creative process as a member of Genesis and as a solo artist. Collins discusses all of his big songs and how they came to be. One more note: Both “Against All Odds” and “Separate Lives” (both #1 hits) could not make the cut for a Collins album and sat on the shelf for some time until given to the soundtracks of Against All Odds and White Knights respectively. The book reads well and is an evenly told autobiography. Yes, there a few things that could use a little more explanation, but Collins does not avoid touchy or embarrassing situations. He is, for example, very honest about his role in the debacle of performing in London and Philadelphia for Live Aid. The book did not talk me out of my Phil Collins fandom, rather, it may have increased it. Collins is performing a Not Dead Yet tour in Europe in 2017. There are rumors that he will bring this tour to the U.S. – one can only hope. Not Dead Yet end optimistically, giving the reader hope that his fantastic musical career continues.
Hi Everybody! Within the past year, I stepped outside my comfort zone, and started reviewing movies. Now, I am going to step a little more outside of said comfort zone, and review books. And that’s not all! If you are lucky enough to be reading this, then you will see that I will be…
…conducting my first interview! Hey, if you’re not growing, you’re dying, right? Well, Return to the ’80s has tons of life left in it. So, this will either be a lot of fun, or it will be a train wreck. Either way, you win!
Luckily enough, my first review is for an awesomely hilarious book – I Don’t Have a Happy Place. This is a memoir by Kim Korson. She is of our generation, so there are ’70s and ’80s references galore.
The book is basically a series of essays that cover periods of Kim’s life. The tone of the book is set immediately as she is a child, hanging out with a neighborhood friend who has everything – specifically lots of Barbie dolls, and Baby Alive. They then witness a traumatizing event. Kim’s reaction is quite unique, to say the least.
As we progress on this journey that is Kim’s life, we learn about her life as a cynical Canadian Jewish girl (who celebrates Christmas), and her family life. There’s something that happens at summer camp that made me say, “I can’t believe she did that!”
Her high school years are covered in a chapter/essay in which it is in the form of a series of letters that current Kim is writing to High School Kim. It was different from the rest of the book, but I thought it was pretty cool.
We then jump to Kim’s adulthood, and her move to New York. She shares her misadventures in the workforce, and meets Buzz, and they start a family of their own.
Kim’s stories are very funny. The book title may indicate that she is a sad person who feels sorry for herself. But, that is not the case at all. She just has this incredible ability (or is it a curse?) to see the worst case scenario in any given situation. The way she describes everything is hilarious. And there are many subtle things she does in her writing that had me laughing out loud. And I don’t mean the Facebook kind of laughing out loud where you see something humorous, and reply by typing LOL, even though you really did not laugh out loud. I mean, there was one time I was in a sandwich shop, reading the book on my phone, as I was waiting for my food to be made. I came across something that Kim wrote that made me crack up in front of several people.
And it’s not all negativity in this book. My favorite chapter/essay was Kim’s trip to Disney World. She may not have a “Happy Place”, but she did have happy moments here. But, that’s not what makes this section so great. It’s her reaction to these unfamiliar feelings that is just brilliant! It is fun when she sees her beloved Chip and Dale, and we go on a magical journey with her on the It’s a Small World ride.
I highly recommend this book. This would be a great beach read for this summer. Or for standing in line at your local sandwich shop. This book is my happy place now.
Now, here is my interview with Kim:
First of all, why don’t you tell me a little about yourself? Just kidding. I just read a whole book about you. A totally awesome book! I love your humor, and you are a very talented writer. I did not get bored for a second.
What made you decide to write this book?
My dear friend, who is a glass half full, often insists that happiness is a choice. I, on the other hand, champion pessimist, believe our outlooks have more to do with wiring. I set out to mine my experiences, focusing on areas where people are traditionally happy, to see how I fared. (turns out, not so well!)
Did you have any challenges in getting the book written?
Yes, myself. I was and remain my biggest challenge. I have been known to beat myself up on a good day, but I especially got in my own way during the writing process. My inner editor is cruel and I listened to her all the time. It was tough to get her to settle down.
Are there any particular authors/books that inspired you with your writing?
I am a huge fan of Tom Perrotta and Jonathon Tropper and Maria Semple—one line of theirs and I’m inspired. Same goes for David Sedaris, A.M. Homes, Nora Ephron. They’re all masters.
Would you say your summer camp more closely resembled the one in Meatballs, Ernest Goes to Camp, or Friday the 13th?
Definitely Meatballs, minus any sort of inspirational Bill Murray character. Unfortunately, I never ran any races or got slow-clapped or learned a damn thing.
You moved around a few times. Do you have a favorite city/town that you lived in?
Manhattan and Brooklyn had many charms but Vermont finally feels like home. I worried that all the quiet and nature would either make me feel lonely or scared, or worse, let me hear myself think but it turned out to be quite the opposite. Who knew nature would be so delightful?
I love how you peppered several pop culture references throughout your story. What were some of your favorite television shows?
As I say in the book, I was raised by a 19 inch Zenith. TV was everything to me growing up—friend, teacher, mother. My first loves were Happy Days, Soap, Mary Tyler Moore, All in the Family, Taxi, Maude and Rhoda. Man, I wanted to be Rhoda.
I love your sense of humor. Were you inspired by any particular comedian?
I love a good curmudgeon like Larry David or Garry Shandling, or someone who focuses on the wrong things, like David Sedaris.
In high school, which character from The Breakfast Club could you relate most to?
A. The Brain (Brian) – Anthony Michael Hall
B. The Jock (Andy) – Emilio Estevez
C. The Criminal (Bender) – Judd Nelson
D. The Princess (Claire) – Molly Ringwald
E. The Basket Case (Allison) – Ally Sheedy
I think I was the basket case who hated the princess because I probably wanted to be the princess because she got to make out with Bender. Wait a minute—didn’t we learn in that movie that we were each the brain, jock, criminal, princess, basket case? Wasn’t that the point? I can promise you I was never the jock or the brain. I did however steal some Unicef money once.
I really enjoyed reading about your Disney trip. Do you have any plans to go back any time soon?
Would you believe I’m the only one in my family who wants to go back? (I wish I was kidding.)
Do you have plans to write more books?
I am currently writing a novel. It won’t be about myself this time, at least not as blatantly. This one is about a theater.
Finally, I may have a possible Happy Place for you. Imagine yourself running around with Chip and Dale, busting Donald Duck’s balls. How does that make you feel?
Like I want no part of Donald Duck’s balls.
Thank you so much for taking time to answer my questions. And thanks for sharing so much of your life in I Don’t Have a Happy Place. You gave me a Happy Place, because I think of some things you wrote, and I just crack up. I look forward to reading any more work you put out.
One small note in this interview: The UNICEF incident she mentions, in “The Breakfast Club” question, is mentioned in the Disney section of the book – specifically in the “Small World” part.
I would also like to thank Wunderkind PR for the opportunity to review this book.
There are several places to buy I Don’t Have a Happy Place:
I found out from their awesome communications officer that Highlights has recently launched a Facebook-based campaign, to celebrate the nostalgia of Highlights magazine, called I Was a Highlights Kid. It is a lot of fun!
You can take a quiz to see you’re more like Goofus or Gallant. According to the quiz, I am 60% Gallant. You can look at magazine covers for each year. Wow, the memories came flooding back, especially when I saw covers from the late ’70s/early ’80s!
There is a really awesome Hidden Pictures game too! It’s just as you remember. You click on each item in the picture that you need to find. It is actually a lot more challenging than I was expecting.
And you can share stories and photos about Highlights.
So this page is definitely worth checking out. I know you will love it. So, go ahead and visit http://www.Highlights.com/Memories to join in on the fun. And you don’t need to worry about getting pulled into the dentist chair before you finish. And you don’t need to stress out waiting to get a shot from your doctor while you are trying to enjoy this.
Feel free to let me know what you think.
Any child who grew up in the ’80s (or anyone who grew up from 1946 through today, for that matter) had one thing to look forward to when going to the dentist or the doctor. You could guarantee that there would be a Highlights Magazine to read in the waiting room. It would take your mind off of pondering whether you were going to get a shot or not. Although it is geared towards children aged 6-12, it was/is a great magazine for kids of all ages.
Highlights was first published in June 1946, started by Garry Myers and his wife Caroline Clark Myers in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. The company is now based in Columbus, Ohio, and owns book publishers Zaner-Bloser, Stenhouse Publishers, and Boyds Mills Press.
Garry Myers earned a PhD in psychology from Columbia University before World War I. He and Caroline Myers taught illiterate soldiers for the US Army, with the latter becoming the first ever female teacher employed by the Army.
They became pioneers in elementary education and taught educators and parents. Garry wrote a nationally syndicated column entitled Parent Problems, and the couple co-authored several books.
The couple began to work for Children’s Activities, and lectured across the country. After finishing with Children’s Activities, instead of retiring they decided to start their own magazine, which would become Highlights.
Here are some favorite features that we would see each month:
This feature has been published in every issue of Highlights since the magazine’s inception. It is currently found on page 14 of each issue. You would need to find small pictures within a bigger picture.
Goofus & Gallant
This is a comic strip featuring two contrasting boys – one was a douchebag irresponsible and rude (Goofus), and the other was a kiss-ass know-it-all kinder and ALWAYS did the right thing (Gallant). Often the panels would provide description, such as on a school bus: Goofus hogs his seat – Gallant makes space for someone else to sit down. Sometimes the situations would show the boys talking, such as phone courtesy when parents are away: Goofus: “Someone called but I forgot their name.” Gallant: “Someone called for you. I wrote down their name and number”.
And a more recent example: Goofus would not have crossed out “douchebag” or “kiss-ass know it-all” while describing characters from a children’s magazine – Gallant would not resort to name calling at all to begin with.
The Timbertoes was a comic strip about a family that appears to be made out of wood. The family consists of parents Ma and Pa and their children Tommy and Mabel. There are also animals: their dog Spot, cat Splinter, goat Butter, and horse Troy.
The Bear Family
This cartoon appeared in Highlights from the beginning until 1989, then reappeared in 1998. This family of bears included the mother, father and three children named Poozy, Woozy, and Piddy.
Ugh! Even as a child, I thought the jokes were horrible! And there would always be a Knock, Knock joke:
“Who, who, who, who …”
This was a little more interesting than the jokes. There would be about 10 riddles, and the answers would be upside down at the bottom. Here are a few examples:
A. What has a face and two hands but no arms or legs?
B. What five-letter word becomes shorter when you add two letters to it?
C. What word begins and ends with an ‘e’ but only has one letter?
Finally, on the back cover, there would be the “What’s Wrong?” picture. There would be a big picture that has unusual objects take the place of normal things throughout the picture. You then need to find the various objects that are wrong.
What are your memories of Highlights Magazine? It was the first magazine subscription I ever had in my name. Did anybody have any favorite features?