Say what you will about the era in which your siblings, cousins and ultra cool day camp counsellors grew up, but the year Jian Ghomeshi describes in 1982 sounds like a whirlwind adventure made possible without tablets, Netflix or Starbucks.
1982’s style and content is appealing to FIMS students interested in pop culture and especially music history, because Ghomeshi likes to juxtapose his 1980s possessions with contemporary ones. For example, he compares vinyl records to MP3s on iPods. Such cultural differences reflect how the definition of cool has evolved. As our FIMS classes teach us, our contemporary possessions and experiences define who we are. In the eighties, Ghomeshi used his then-stylish Adidas bag to show us his cool persona. Wait until you read what happens to said bag: what transpired became a defining moment for fourteen-year-old Ghomeshi, and yes, Wendy, who is indispensable in any 1982 plot synopsis, was there to witness it.
Wendy embodied everything that makes Ghomeshi’s idol David Bowie cool, so each conversation between the two, not to mention simple hellos to her in the hallway, is dramatized in the book. Interestingly, Ghomeshi admits to giving serious thought about his outfit before a highly anticipated date with her, whereas few boys express anything but indifference towards fashion. Then again, he interrupts this train of thought about what to wear with a rant about the logistics of contacting Wendy. Using lingo that describes how we connect with others in 2012, Ghomeshi points out they “didn’t have text messages or Facebook or IM-ing or DM-ing or BBM-ing in the ‘80s. Communicating with someone you liked involved high-stakes exposure and risk.”
Ghomeshi’s ability to intersperse his memories of the early 80s with reflections on technological developments explains his mass appeal as a Canadian cultural icon. Ghomeshi’s stories are relatable for current high school students in and outside of Thornhill, Ontario, as well as the senior citizens who eagerly attended his book signing at Chapters South London in September. “The ‘80s may not seem like that long ago to some of you, but they were prehistoric if you’re counting in technology years,” Ghomeshi says. Every explanation of how communication has changed is also well articulated through his effective use of short sentences. Now, “we would refer to the popular points of discussion on Twitter as items that were ‘trending.’ But in 1982, we called it ‘talking with your friends’.”
Ghomeshi’s observational humour underscores his qualifications to be a radio show host on CBC. He has commentary about everything, including the fact that “most blonde girls with perfect noses want to be pop stars.” As a point of reference, Britney Spears wasn’t yet in The Mickey Mouse Club in 1982; she was a one-year-old naturally brunette infant. But enough about Britney; rest assured, the music-filled time machine that is 1982 mainly focuses on the summer when Ghomeshi attended The Police Picnic with Wendy.
This isn’t the first story written about an awkward immigrant teenager growing up in suburban Canada. It does, however, make you wish you’d recorded more of your embarrassing moments as they happened. Ghomeshi humbly admits his memory of the ninth grade is hazy, hence why he classifies the book as creative non-fiction.
As university students, there is still time to record our personal milestones in detail, though publicly blogging about chasing the guy or girl of your dreams isn’t necessary. It couldn’t hurt to play David Bowie in the background as you write about daily life at Western, if only as a salute to Jian Ghomeshi, a broadcaster who understands today’s cultural zeitgeist so well that he can seamlessly connect it to stories from thirty years ago.
1982 isn’t a memoir by a profit-hungry entertainer eager to reminisce about how he became a multi-millionaire; it’s a book with a broken cassette tape on the cover by a public sphere broadcaster passionate about music. In other words, adding Ghomeshi’s memoir to a course’s required readings could be the best thing to happen at Western since the eighties.
Sarah Prince is an MIT student at Western University and Editor of Hot On The Street. Likes nut free baked goods, but loves chai tea lattes more. Sometimes you can spot her as the girl in the red jeans.