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Talking to Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield

October 23, 2012

A good friend gave this book to me, telling me that it had her laughing out loud. I’d say there’s at least a chuckle-out-loud turn of phrase every couple pages, with a snort-out-loud or even a guffaw-out-loud at least once a chapter. Sheffield is currently a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, a total music and pop culture nerd with a great sense of self-deprecating humor and a likable personality. And he has rad sisters.

Although each chapter of the book is titled for a song from that year, and although there’s quite a bit of music nerdery (including unapologetic love for some absolutely atrocious bands), the book is really about Sheffield trying to find his way through his formative years. Receiving dating and fashion advice from his sisters, his stint as an ice cream man, his unhealthy infatuation with Flock of Seagulls.

I am not nearly the music nerd that Sheffield is, and I’m a decade younger, so some of the music references early in the book pre-date my pubescent years. Still, I could relate to pretty much everything he says. Because teen years are teen years, and anyone who experienced the ‘80s as a non-adult is linked by that god-force sometimes called MTV. So when Sheffield talks about the impact Madonna’s “Crazy For You” had on him, I think of “True Blue.” And then in some of the later chapters, he’s talking about things I remember vividly and feel deep down in that weird compartment where nostalgia resides.

Don’t judge the book on what I’m going to share with you because it’s not the funniest thing by far. But it’s my favorite part because it’s so insightful. I want to share it because Sheffield nails the insular, this-moment-is-the-only-moment-and-we-will-never-regret-dying-our-hair-platinum-and-wearing-sequins-and-sneering-at-the-camera naiveté of the ‘80s perfectly with this observation:

The moment that sums it up for me is the truly loathsome opening shot of Top Gun, with the caption “Indian Ocean: Present Day.” That totally sums up where Hollywood culture was at in 1986: the ruling principle was that the “Present Day” would always look, sound and feel exactly like 1986—too horrible a thought to even contemplate.

This is the kind of book you want to pass on to fellow pop culture and music nerds. I know some who are much bigger nerds than myself. I’m going to pass this book along to one of them tomorrow.

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