Searching for John Hughes: Or Everything I Thought I Needed to Know about Life I Learned From Watching ’80s Movies by Jason Diamond (William Morrow, $15.99, 285 pages)
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller
“It was time to start paying attention, because I didn’t want to miss anything else. I didn’t find John Hughes, but instead I found the things I really needed.” – Jason Diamond
It’s rare to read a book about someone’s unsuccessful attempt to write a book. But that’s what this memoir is about. Jason Diamond spent years researching and writing a book about 80s film director and producer John Hughes. He eventually gave up his quest – which took most of his twenties – literally a couple of days before he believed he would meet Hughes in person. Then, to make things ever more tragic and dramatic, he learned that Hughes had died of a heart attack.
Hughes died not in Chicago, where Diamond was headed at the time, but in New York City. Diamond lived in Brooklyn. So the gods had clearly determined that Diamond’s hip biography of Hughes would never be published.
This would seem to mean that there’s not much of a story for Diamond to tell here. Oh, but there is. It’s the story of a person – all too common these days – overflowing with self-effacing feelings. All Diamond ever wanted to do was write, but his efforts never seemed to pan out. So he placed all his hopes and fears into producing “the book” that was to turn his life around. Of course, there were a few problems and obstacles along the way – chiefly that neither Hughes nor any of the actors in his films ever agreed to meet or be interviewed by Diamond. (As might occur in a bad film, Diamond did come into awkward contact with some of these actors in New York City.)
There was also the fact that the man who said he would be Diamond’s book agent never signed a contract to fulfill that commitment, never did any actual work on Diamond’s behalf, and left the business before Diamond’s bio draft was completed.
Diamond had to learn the hard way that one cannot spend one’s entire life waiting for something that may never arrive. It was only when he erased all of his work on the ever-unfinished Hughes bio that his life actually began. And, yes, this was a good thing.
While Searching for John Hughes does not in fact live up to its ambitious subtitle – it may have been more properly subtitled as My Search for the Ghost of John Hughes – kudos go to Diamond for summarizing the philosophy of Hughes’s work in brief fashion:
Life is full of constant sadness and the world can be a cruel place. Yet what Hughes offers in his films is the idea that one single day can be great, and that’s all you need if you live in the moment. That one day can turn into a second, and third, and many more consecutive great days. There will be pitfalls here and there, chemicals in your brain, tragedy that you can’t prepare yourself for, or tyrannical vice principals trying to hold you down, but the trick is to open yourself up to the idea that great things can just happen, that the good is just as much a part of life as the bad.
And Diamond summarized his own early adult life in this succinct way:
One day you think you have a great idea, then five minutes, hours, days – or in my case – years later you finally realize that it’s time to put it away. Sometimes you have to fail in order to succeed. If you don’t slow down, if you let your obsessions and anger and fear stop you from looking around, you could miss some really important things.
This is a quite enjoyable work by writer Jason Diamond. I very much look forward to reading his next release.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Searching for John Hughes was released on November 29, 2016.