How Christopher Pike’s Remember Me Subverts 80s Teenage Tropes
Kicking Off Season Two of the Lit Century Podcast
Welcome to Lit Century: 100 Years, 100 Books. Combining literary analysis with an in-depth look at historical context, hosts Sandra Newman and Catherine Nichols choose one book for each year of the 20th century, and—along with special guests—will take a deep dive into a hundred years of literature.
In this episode, Elisa Gabbert and Catherine Nichols discuss Christopher Pike’s hit 1989 novel Remember Me and his less-known Fall Into Darkness (1990). Remember Me‘s ghostly protagonist explores an idiosyncratic afterlife and enters the dreams of her family and friends to solve her own murder at her friend’s slumber party. In Fall Into Darkness, a teenage girl discovers that her best friend has framed her for murder.
From the episode:
Catherine: Reading Remember Me, I was trying to think of how many times I’d ever encountered 80s teenage tropes being played this straight and this sensitively. Just the idea that you would have this super hot rich girl who is not that serious about life, and she’s given a Ferrari for her 18th birthday. She uses it to drive to high school, but she has to carpool with her super hot boyfriend so she can’t drive the Ferrari. You’re like, how could this not be the villain? How could this not be a person that the book on some level wants us to hate or just consider her shallow or that she needs to be taught a lesson?
Even in Jane Austen’s time, the idea that there is a hot girl who’s just allowed to exist and be full of herself—Jane Austen said everyone is going to hate Emma. This book is so innocent about how much it loves Shari and how much it allows her to just be that person and have dignity as a kind of shallow, hot 18-year-old who has to solve her own murder.
Elisa: And I like, as you say, she’s not that serious about life. She’s not top of her class or hoping to become a famous actress or anything. Aside from being rich and hot, she’s pretty average for a rich hot girl.
Catherine: Yeah, I was going to say Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is one of the only other things I think of that was just like, isn’t it great to be hot and rich? There’s no layers beyond it than that. But there is a difference because Ferris Bueller is extraordinary because he’s always three steps ahead of everyone. Shari isn’t like that. She’s just a regular girl.
Elisa: She is regular. And it is very touching that the worldview of this book is like, but… her life matters too. Not just even in some grand scheme, but most importantly, her life mattered to herself.
Elisa Gabbert is the author of five collections of poetry, essays, and criticism: The Unreality of Memory & Other Essays, out now from FSG Originals and Atlantic UK; The Word Pretty (Black Ocean, 2018); L’Heure Bleue, or the Judy Poems (Black Ocean, 2016); The Self Unstable (Black Ocean, 2013); and The French Exit (Birds LLC, 2010). The Unreality of Memory and The Word Pretty were both named a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and The Self Unstable was chosen by the New Yorker as one of the best books of 2013. She writes a regular poetry column for the New York Times, and her work has appeared in Harper’s, The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine and Book Review, the New York Review of Books, the Guardian Long Read, the London Review of Books, A Public Space, the Paris Review Daily, American Poetry Review, and many other venues.
Catherine Nichols is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in many places, including Jezebel, Aeon, and Electric Literature. She lives in Brookyln.