Book Review: The New York Times: The Times of the Eighties: The Culture, Politics, and Personalities That Shaped the Decade

The New York Times: The Times of the Eighties: The Culture, Politics, and Personalities That Shaped the Decade by William Grimes. Is a snap of a decade of American pop culture. Grimes is the author of four books on food and drink and the current obituary writer for the New York Times. Previously he has been a magazine writer, book reviewer, theater columnist and food critic. 

I became a young adult in the early 1980s and hold that decade as the best time of my life. This book was a pleasant trip back to my younger years. Each chapter starts with a brief description of the subject: ranging from International News, Business, Science and Technology, Fashion and Style, Arts and Entertainment, Sports, and New York. The chapters are filled with color pictures and New York Times articles. The only writing is in the chapter introductions. The original articles and pictures make up the bulk of the chapter. 

I thought I would remember so much of the 1980s, but this book brought back so much and so many memories. Walter Cronkite left the CBS Evening News. Japan out produced the United States in car production. Many things I remember are in the book too. I remember cutting gym class in high school to go to the library and watch the launch of the first space shuttle: Columbia. I remember coming home to Cleveland from Europe (where I also found myself closer to the Chernobyl accident than I would have liked) and trying to buy leaded gas…it was gone. 

Some of the technology that blossomed in the 1980s, are already obsolete like the VCR, Walkman, and the disposable camera. The VCR was an amazing device back in the day; it was really something to record a show and watch it later; something taken for granted today. Some things went away quickly likeNew Coke and others lingered like the death sentence on Salmon Rushdie. Other things are still going like the Voyager spacecrafts that took the pictures of Saturn, Uranus and Neptune in the 1980s. The internet is one of the big successes of the 1980s, now matured and common as radio and newspapers back then. 

Any one remember Matthias Rust? That was quite a coup he pulled off. Remember the barge Mobro?

The New York section is particularly interesting, not being from New York I remember many of the stories: Koch, Goetz, the homeless problem, and the horrible rape and beating of a jogger in Central Park. New York was the place where big things happened, good or bad and much more of a cultural center than Los Angles. 

This is an excellent book, the print copy will make an excellent coffee table book. I would recommend it to anyone in the forty-five to sixty age group. This was a great decade and those of us who lived it. So much history, culture, and, now, primitive technology. The new stories and pictures will bring the decade back to you. 

(I would also recommend this book to the younger crowd so that they can see what they missed out on.) 

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