If you’re me, you go into a book like Fast Times at Ridgemont High thinking “Awwww, yesssss. I can’t wait to see THAT LINE in the original context!”
Because this is a book that (apparently, just like me) you’ve seen the movie, but have been UNABLE to find a copy to read.
[sidenote: What is up with everything I really want to read being out of print lately? I ONLY HAVE SO MUCH TO SPEND ON BOOKS AND RESELLERS ARE KILLING ME, MAN!]
When I was a senior in high school, I’d just moved from NW Montana to SoCal. Most of my friends at my new school were ALSO new there. That was how I knew J. and his little brother C. J. and I had photography together my second semester, but after going to his house a few times after school, I realized that C. and I had a lot more in common.
He showed up one day in a Beastie Boys tee shirt that made me laugh.
And then he thought I was laughing at him for liking the Beastie Boys! When I tried to explain that I was laughing at the back of the shirt, he gave a bit of a giggle himself and said he thought it was funny getting away with a masturbation joke at school.
It was then that I realized that he had no idea where that line had come from, or WHOSE VAN THAT WAS, so I made him watch Fast Times with me that same day.
He loved it. Of course he did. He was a 90s Spicoli (but with skating instead of surfing). I sat next to him and mouthed the words to the ENTIRE MOVIE because…when I love something unabashedly, I read/watch/listen to it over and over and over again – it’s a thing I have, I don’t know. Shut up.
At that point in my life, I’d already seen this movie more times than I could count, and had already been searching for the book for at least five years. This was one that I first saw at a very young age with my dad, and he and I were already quoting it at each other before I was 10. Don’t judge, my dad’s awesome.
The book was NOWHERE. I tried all kinds of interlibrary loans and searching every bookstore I EVER went to, but I couldn’t manage to get my hands on it (younger readers, this was way before amazon and even THE INTERNET were household things).
So, when I started to read Cameron Crowe’s ‘true story’ yesterday, it was after 20 years of looking for a copy of the damn thing. I hoped I wouldn’t be disappointed. You know, like – the movie is this ICONIC piece of the 80s for me and I just didn’t want to learn that it was SHIT compared to the book.
Luckily, that did not turn out to be the case.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (the film) is probably the most faithful book-to-film adaptation I’ve ever seen.
Yes, there’s more.
Yes, there are characters that don’t appear in the movie, and some characters have been condensed/compressed/combined into one, BUT the dialogue is effing SPOT ON.
Seriously, the only thing I was expecting to read (while the movie/soundtrack were playing in my head) that I didn’t find is the title of today’s post. The scene below is one of my favourite in the entire movie, and while it happened, the lines here weren’t in the book at all.
BUT! It was kind of no big because I was having such a FANTASTIC time with the rest of it.
Is this a book I’d recommend to everyone? HELL, NO! Is it, however, a book I’d recommend to major fans of the movie? HELL, YES.
Let me tell you why.
There’s an introduction by the author saying that he’d been an actual journalist from a young age (Seriously, he was young. See Almost Famous for more information.), and that when he was 22 he approached the principal of Ridgemont High with the idea of going to school for a year as a senior, and writing about the experience. This book was what came out of it. So, we’re supposed to believe that it’s all a true story, but it doesn’t really come across as one. It reads like a FICTIONALIZED ACCOUNT of what happened that year, because without being psychic, there’s no way that all of the details could have been filled in like they were.
Maybe this stuff is true, but if so, the details were filled in by Mr Crowe, because there’s no way he could have known what SHIRT someone was wearing during a [ahem] private fantasy. I don’t care WHO YOU ARE, no one is going to tell you that ish.
So. Here’s how you go into reading Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
- You are already a fan of the movie.
- You do not expect a whole lot more than just a series of DVD extras.
- You pretend that this is a novel, and not a ‘true story.’
- You try to pretend that Spicoli was never played by Sean Penn because the real Spicoli is much younger than that, and nowhere near as awesome.
- You (other than the scene mentioned above) are giddy with anticipation for reading MOAR INFORMATION about your favourite scenes that are coming up.
Finally – and this only has a bit to bear on the subject at hand, really, so feel free to skip to the comments section – I mentioned in an email to Amy today (and talked about it a little bit on Em’s blog a few months ago) that it’s kind of sad that we don’t have more books and movies today that discussed abortion in as frank a manner as this one does. Today, we only get right or left-wing political bullshit. Maybe we haven’t progressed as far as we’ve thought in the last 30 years? I don’t know.
Then the conversation with Amy turned to her giving me messages from her dad about the next season of Survivor, so that has nothing to do with anything here.
Only read it if you already liked the movie. Otherwise it’ll probably drive you crazy.