Thursday, January 26, 2017

Review: Searching for John Hughes

Summary: 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. -- William Morrow

I've been on a bit of a non-fiction kick these past few weeks. I've read one history book and two memoirs... and I think it might be more non-fiction books than I read all of last year. Being a child of the 1980s, I was really looking forward to reading the memoir SEARCHING FOR JOHN HUGHES: OR EVERYTHING I THOUGHT I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT LIFE I LEARNED FROM WATCHING '80S MOVIES by Jason Diamond. When I reflect on my middle school and high school years, I remember fondly the movies Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and more!

SEARCHING FOR JOHN HUGHES is Jason Diamond's memoir about his childhood as perhaps the biggest John Hughes fan in the world. Mr. Diamond's childhood was far from ideal, and he found much needed comfort in Hughes' films. He grew up in the Chicago suburbs where Hughes' movies took place, and he connected deeply with these characters.

He became so obsessed with Hughes' films that he decided he would set out to write the definitive biography on Hughes and his movies. Keep in mind that Mr. Diamond didn't really have the experience or training to write a book of this magnitude... or in fact, even any contact with Hughes or those who knew and worked with him.

Mr. Diamond spent years trying to write the book and eventually realized that the biography wasn't the book that he was meant to write. Instead, he wrote his own story, SEARCHING FOR JOHN HUGHES, about the life lessons he learned during his journey to find himself.

I really enjoyed SEARCHING FOR JOHN HUGHES. Honestly, I'm not sure that I would have read a memoir about a guy who had a tough childhood, even tougher teenage years, and early adult years where he was broke and depressed. However, a few words in the title sold me -- John Hughes! Seriously, I loved his movies and I thought the author linking his story to John Hughes and his movies was so intriguing.

And let me tell you, SEARCHING FOR JOHN HUGHES is one good memoir. It's extremely smart, but it's also hilarious and even touching. Reading about Mr. Diamond's childhood broke my heart -- it was just awful; and I have to tell you that there were times when I wanted to just shake some sense into him. It seemed like he didn't have a firm grip on reality. But then I remembered how horrible his parents were to him and I became sympathetic to his lack of direction.

I will admit that some of my favorite parts of this book were when he reference Hughes' films. In fact, I wanted to sit down and binge on all of my old favorites! It was like a walk down memory lane. I found his ability to weave bits of the movies into his personal story to be so entertaining... and very well done. And even though this book wasn't really that definitive book about Mr. Hughes, I still managed to love the information on the director and his films!

Of course, I couldn't help but appreciate Mr. Diamond's struggles and the way he turned his life around. It's an extremely honest story and also a motivational one. Mr. Diamond's memoir encourages individuals (and especially) artists to be true to themselves, and he definitely shows what it means to pull yourself up from your bootstraps -- over and over again.

In conclusion, SEARCHING FOR JOHN HUGHES is a very entertaining memoir about a young man's journey to self-discovery. Recommended for fans of memoirs... and of course, John Hughes.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.


bermudaonion said...

I was a little old for a lot of Hughes' movies when they came out but I suspect I'll still enjoy this memoir.

ChaosIsAFriendOfMine said...

What a neat concept for a book. I grew up loving John Hughes too. Definitely putting this on my TBR list.