Welcome the first installment of my year-long look back at a decade defined by its extremes. Rap versus grunge; mullets versus pixies; Saved by the Bell versus NYPD Blue – the 1990s had it all, and then some. Every other week I’ll be reminiscing about some facet of the 1990s, potentially drowning in some ill-forgotten nostalgia despite my best efforts otherwise. Serving as inspiration is an utterly ridiculous but nonetheless intriguing list created by Huffington Post — 1990 Things from the 90s to End the Nostalgia Once and for All – and I’ll be using a random number generator to pick each week’s “topic.” So don’t have a cow, man, if I ask you to talk to the hand while take this sweet ride through the 90s. Word to your mother.
Week 1: HuffPost list #1365 – “Say Cheese and Die.”
Oh shit, I don’t know what that’s from! Jeeeeeeez, what a way to start things off. ‘Scuse me as I head to the Internets….
Okay…damn y’all…it’s a title of one of the Goosebumps books.
So, here’s what the high school-me thought of Goosebumps:
Please go away because [heavy sigh] this is neither Jules Verne nor Stephen King.
It is with hopefully more maturity that I say I respect the series, but sorry, I’ve never read one of the books. I have a vague memory that one of my young siblings might have been into these books, but…considering that I had to keep my interest in Stephen King a secret (at least during high school) because my parents were kinda strict against us getting into horror stuff, I feel like Goosebumps might have been mildly off-limits, too. What I do remember quite vividly is that the books were often featured in our public library.
While my high school’s library was just okay, the public library was heaven. I recall spending hours upon hours at it on the weekends during my middle and high school years, devouring books of all sorts. The library had two levels, which I saw as “main floor = adults” and “lower floor = kids.” Over time, I graduating from spending most of my hours in the kids section to the adults section, but even when older, I still regularly checked out the kids section, because that’s where they kept Alice in Wonderful and other easy-to-read classics. (I like reading, but I’m not a very good reader.) That’s also where Goosebumps lived. At first, it was just a couple titles featured in the “new books” section of the lower level. But eventually, the series spanned its very own labeled shelf. And man, those books were p-o-p-u-l-a-r. There were always at least one group of kids pulling those books off the shelf and, I’m sure, putting them back in the wrong order. (You’d think the Dewey Decimal system would be easy to follow but…ohhhhh nooooo.)
After I graduated high school and left my hometown for college, I’m fairly certain that Goosebumps meant little more to me than the actual physical reaction of goosebumps. But years later, when I was in grad school, I remember visiting the home of one of my classmates, and she had an entire set of well-worn Goosebumps books sitting blatantly among more erudite fare. At that point, I’d all but forgotten about the books, and I asked her why she had them, because they looked so out of place. She said that she loved them as a kid, and made it a point them to collect as many as she could. She hoped to pass down the set to her own children. I wonder if she ever did? Maybe it doesn’t matter since the books remains readily available, probably thanks in no small part to the recent-ish Goosebumps movie. It’s a little surprising that this series has gained such longevity, but then again, books never really die. And that’s nice.