"What Was So Great About the 80s?" by Jason Rekulak

ImpossibleAmazon editor Seira Wilson describes Jason Rekulak's debut novel The Impossible Fortress as "one of those books -- one of those rare and special few where, once you have finished it, you want all your friends to read it immediately."

"This is especially true if you grew up in the 1980s," Seira explains, "because The Impossible Fortress is a coming-of-age story tucked inside a love letter to that strange and wonderful decade"

All of the editors agree with Seira on this book, which is why we picked it as a Best Book of February.

We asked Jason Rekulak to explain why he chose to write about the 80s. His response surprised us and made his novel even more poignant.

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It’s just so hard to say goodbye to the 1980s! We’d barely made it to 1998 when Adam Sandler dusted off his aqua-blue tuxedo, feathered his hair, and sang “You Spin Me Round” in The Wedding Singer. The next year, Judd Apatow and Paul Feig brought Freaks and Geeks to NBC, and Hollywood started producing a string of '80s remakes that’s still going strong: Fame, Red Dawn, Clash of the Titans, The A-Team, Poltergeist, Endless Love, The Karate Kid, Arthur, Annie, Ghostbusters, the list goes on and on.  Even today, puffy vests are back in style, U2 is relaunching The Joshua Tree tour, and everyone’s geeking out over Stranger Things.

So what is it that makes the '80s so special? Since I’ve just published a coming-of-age novel set in 1987, I’m getting this question a lot. And here’s my best guess at an answer: As we move deeper into this strange new twenty-first century, united and divided by social media, I think Americans are nostalgic for a time when we could actually agree on something.

Back in the '80s, we came together as a nation and agreed that Michael Jackson’s Thriller was extraordinary, and we pledged our dollars to make it the top-selling original album of all time. Together we bought 29 million copies, a record which has never been surpassed.

We saw E.T. and we agreed it was extraordinary—and we made it #1 at the box office every week for the entire summer, sixteen weeks in all, a record which has never been surpassed.

We agreed that M*A*S*H was an extraordinary television series and an estimated 125 million of us watched (and wept) over the final episode. A record which has never been – well, you get the idea.

I remember experiencing all of the above in the company of friends and family – in fact, my most vivid memories of the '80s were these shared landmark pop culture experiences. But today we’re all watching and listening on tiny portable devices, screens designed for a single viewer, and so often we’re watching alone.

On any given night we have an infinite number of entertainment choices. We can listen to any album, read any book, watch any television show, stream any movie, download any podcast, and the rational part of my brain knows this is remarkable progress.

But even as I treasure this freedom, I can’t help but feel like we’ve lost something. I miss feeling like part of some giant singular American audience. And sometimes I wonder if E.T. and Thriller and M*A*S*H weren’t part of some larger national fabric that bound us all together.

There’s no going back, of course. There will never be another work of entertainment that 125 million Americans enjoy together on the same night at the same time. But I’m betting there will be more books, movies, and TV shows reminding us of how things used to be.

-- Jason Rekulak

 


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