A Long Time Ago, Gib Van Ert's memoir about growing up with Star Wars became news last Christmas, when it disappeared from Amazon following a bogus trademark question. It's been back for months now, and has been in my to-read pile for much longer, and I've finally had the pure pleasure of reading it.
A Long Time Ago is a thoughtful, funny, and beautifully written story of the role that Star Wars played in Van Ert's life, shaping his destiny as he was raised by a USMC-deserting draft dodger and a runaway Texas beauty queen in small town British Colombia. Like me, Van Ert saw the first movie as a small boy, and thereafter principally experienced it through toys, records and merchandising tie-ins. His critiques of the Kenner action figures are both scathingly hilarious and bang on, and that's pretty much a microcosm for the whole book.
By Van Ert's own admission, he's not the biggest Star Wars fan that ever lived. But Star Wars was a gateway into other nerdy pastimes -- comic collecting, Atari home systems, coin-op video games, Dungeons and Dragons -- and he does an excellent job of tracing the curious ways that the specific nerdiness of his (and my generation) shaped his intellectual and personal pursuits.
He explains how he fell away from Star Wars fandom after the third movie, forgot about it until the "special editions," and experienced his first rumblings of anxiety about the destiny of his nearly forgotten but warmly remembered passion. He nails the prequels -- fish in a barrel, but still -- and then ties it all into a story of personal development that's sweet, hopeful and wistful.
It's a short book and a quick read, and it rewards the reader with an echo of the excitement, disappointment, anger, delight, and, ultimately, love, that Van Ert feels for the franchise.
A Long Time Ago
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