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BBC: ‘Searching for John Hughes’.

Howdy! I’m feeling so relaxed this morning – finally – after a pretty rough week, but I went to a retreat yesterday, which I’ll write more about later. Today, I’m excited to share the book Blanche’s Book Club just finished!

I’m talking about “Searching for John Hughes” by Jason Diamond. Here’s the book’s description from Amazon.com:

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.

I believe I saw this book on a used-book blog, but then I could never find it in the library or at the bookstore, so I asked for it for Christmas, and my mom got it for me 🙂 John Hughes has written my favorite movies ever: “Home Alone” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and he also wrote “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, which is always a favorite come Christmastime.

No matter the movie’s plot line, I have always enjoyed his depiction of life midwest – mostly spotless, beautiful, and featuring characters that are out to prove their worth.

In “Searching for John Hughes”, Diamond takes things a little further – he pretty much lives his life through Hughes’ movies. Sound sad? In some ways, it is. But he sets his goal to write Hughes’ biography, and in a way, that becomes his purpose.

I took note of a few quotes I liked while reading:

  • His movies offered the sense that things were supposed to be normal where I grew up, that the road could get bumpy, but ultimately it would get better.
  • And that is what makes Ferris Bueller the patron saint of bored suburban youths: He isn’t the quarterback. He’s handsome, but hardly a classic hottie, and he doesn’t have a car. He’s bored going from home to school all the time and just wants something a little more.
  • I had this theory that if you lived in the suburbs long enough they have to give you a Volvo station wagon, the way they give you a watch after you’ve been with a company for 15 years.
  • I was looking for Hughes, but subconsciously I was starting to understand why I felt such a deep connection to his films, and also why I’d decided writing his book was my destiny: I wanted to live in a John Hughes film.

But, he also does what a lot of writers do – they ignore their purpose and do everything they possibly can to ignore it. In Diamond’s case, he considers buying and running a restaurant, despite not knowing much about the food industry, and he even undergoes professional training to become a rabbi – all to avoid sitting down and actually writing.

This is probably the only thing I didn’t enjoy about the book – I kept getting frustrated that Diamond just didn’t DO something. He kept avoiding reality, and it happened more than once. I suppose the reader is feeling the same way Diamond did, but obviously we know he eventually gets published.

On the brighter side, the book is full of nostalgia for the midwest; and for the characters and scenes in Hughes’ movies. It’s a good little trip down memory lane. Because of that, I’m recommending this book to all Hughes fans, but also anyone who grew up in the Midwest (especially if you dreamed of becoming a writer), and anyone who loves 80’s movies in general.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng. If you’re reading it with us, discussions (along with cooking and other shenanigans) are often on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7.

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