NOSTALGIC FOR THE 80s?….Atrios today recommends that you read Haynes Johnson’s Sleepwalking Through History, an “often ignored” history of the Reagan years. Well, it’s a good book, but good books are often ignored because, well, for starters they’re books, and for finishers they might be just a tad on the bland and dull side

So instead here’s my recommendation for all you fast-paced, attention deficit disordered, video-game-playing, image-oriented, media savvy consumers out there: Paul Slansky’s The Clothes Have No Emperor: A Chronicle of the American 80s. Technically, it’s a book, but it’s a big, colorful book with lots of pictures, a fun quizzes after every chapter, and chunks of text that are never longer than a hundred words each. Sort of the Classics Illustrated version of the 80s. You’ll get stuff like this:

  • 10/11/82: “You can’t drink yourself sober, you can’t spend yourself rich, and you can’t pump the prime without priming the pump. You know something? I said that backwards….You can’t prime the pump without pumping the prime…”

  • 10/5/84: Larry Speakes is asked if President Reagan has read the House report on the latest Beirut truck bombing. “I don’t think he’s read the report in detail,” he says. “It’s five-and-a-half pages, double spaced.”

  • 1/20/87: Robert “Bud” McFarlane goes on Nightline to separate himself from the decison to bring the Iranians a cake. “Simply put, there was a cake on the mission,” he says. “I didn’t buy it, bake it, cook it, eat it, present it or otherwise get involved with it….The cake was the product of a spontaneous idea of Col. North….I didn’t get involved with it.”

Ah, doesn’t this make you wistful for reruns of Cosby and Gary Hart? Doesn’t it make you want to jump up out of your seat and make a contribution to the “Let’s Put Ronald Reagan on Mount Rushmore” campaign? You know it does.

Unfortunately, Slansky’s book is out of print, so unless you like to prowl around used bookstores maybe you ought to read Sleepwalking Through History after all. Sorry about that.

Oh, and The 50s is a good book too. A very underrated decade, that.

UPDATE: Zizka points out that if you don’t feel like slogging through local used bookstores you can buy Slansky’s book online. It’s available from both BookFinder and Abebooks for a few bucks.

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