Building on Sting-Ray Afternoons (2017), Sports Illustrated writer Rushin continues his account of growing up in the 1980s heartland.
“To be in high school in the 1980s is to see yourself depicted in countless movies,” writes Rushin, enumerating such now-classic films as Fast Times at Ridgemont High and The Breakfast Club before closing the thought: “confirming your place at the center of the culture.” Sure enough: If the 1950s saw the birth of the teenager as concept and construct, the ’80s saw its apotheosis. Rushin, with a light touch of the bittersweet, recounts that he wasn’t quite the teenager of those films or of celebratory songs by the likes of the Stray Cats and Heaven 17. Instead, he writes, on the brink of adulthood, he was engrossed in books, jazz, and sports, longing not for a muscle car but for a muscle typewriter, an IBM Selectric II, “all that power in your right pinkie.” The author faced most of the usual disappointments but also a couple of unusual victories, including praise from a tough-minded feature-writing teacher who sported “a wardrobe of shirts and ties evidently acquired on the newsroom set of All the President’s Men” and, eventually, publication in Sports Illustrated, his home ever since. Rushin’s account of a sibling-crowded, busy youth in suburban Minneapolis is affectionate and often funny. For example, he writes about resisting his parents’ call to move out via the siren call of newly born cable TV, which urged instead that he lash himself to the basement and stay put, and of the other blandishments of junk culture, including processed-food sandwiches “tasting of salt and moist paper towel." Though without the gritty depth of Chuck Klosterman’s Fargo Rock City, situated a few years later, Rushin’s account captures many slices of life in a time fast receding into the depths of nostalgia.
Survivors and fans of the era will find this to be a pleasing book of meaningful touchstones, from beer jingles to Porky’s, love, and baseball.