Sunday, November 18, 2012

The '80s: A Look Back at the Tumultuous Decade 1980-1989

1979, Workman edition from later that year
Edited by Tony Hendra, Christopher Cerf & Peter Elbling
Art directed by Michael Gross
(with many contributors, including Jeff Greenfield, Harry Shearer, and Valerie Curtin)
The '80s: A Look Back at the Tumultuous Decade 1980-1989
Original price $6.95, purchase price $4.50
Worn paperback with broken spine

Like the Harvard Lampoon  book on college, this isn't as funny as I remember.  (One line about the fish sleeping with the fishes used to crack me up.)  It's still somewhat impressive how the contributors managed to cover so many aspects of American society (there's a bit on "The World"), and be consistent and yet get nearly everything deliriously wrong.  (The story of a pregnant Cher being dragged into court for smoking in public is not all that different from the "fetal rights" cases discussed in Backlash, particularly the pregnant Seattle woman who in 1991 "ordered a single drink in a bar [and was] hounded and lectured by two servers," only in real life the woman sued and the servers were fired.) 

As with the Lampoon book, there are times when I can't tell if they're parodying sexism and more so racism, or indulging in them.  There are some things that make me smile, like the debate over the "scrotal orgasm," and references to the "novel by an obscure English writer" that inspired the movie hit of the decade, 1984!  But I found my attention wandering too often for a book filled with interesting topics and lots of pictures.  Many of the latter are poorly done (I suspect literal cut and paste), although the Great Wall of Central Park is pretty convincing even in color.

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