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Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost: A Memoir of Hampshire College in the Twilight of the '80s Hardcover – October 29, 2009

3.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Following his student career at America's last great hippie school, Hampshire College, in the waning days of the 1980s, author Rushfield (On Spec), west coast editor of online media gossip magazine Gawker (gawker.com), wanders through a land of optional majors and obligatory drug use that's only fitfully engaging. None of Rushfield's characters come off as particularly likeable: not the humorless administrators, the painfully politically-correct students, or the rebellious, pot-addled group of friends ("the Supreme Dicks") with whom Rushfield runs. Even Rushfield himself annoys, making decisions, like the one to skip most classes his first semester, without much explanation or self-examination. Rushfield makes the autobiographer's mistake of being too easy on himself and too rushed with his narrative, leaving readers with questions like why, exactly, he was so ostracized from Hampshire society. Though Rushfield hits some perfect notes in the details of college life-stepping into his first dorm, "the soon to be familiar smell of moss, stale beer, and laundry detergent introduced itself"-those without a connection to Hampshire probably won't find this memoir of much interest.
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"Had Dorothy Parker been a teenage boy in the Eighties, she'd have been Richard Rushfield, whose bon mots fly from a roundtable set in dank stairwell parties around kegs of flat beer." -Stacey Grenrock Woods, author of I, California

"Richard Rushfield has provided a worm's eye view of one of America's kookiest education experiments: Hampshire College. It was here that the idealism of the Sixties curdled into the nihilism of the Eighties. And Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost isn't merely about a troubled liberal arts school, but an entire generation's nervous breakdown. It is by turns rueful, angry, touching and, above all, very, very funny." - Toby Young, author of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

"Richard Rushfield was a dick in college, just ask him. DFMIL is a hilarious recanting of a unique, and often absurd higher education experience. Rushfield is a completely lovable ne'er-do-well bumbling through a do it yourself education. Required reading for anyone who went to college, lives near a college or owns a hacky sack.." --Greg Behrendt, Comedian, Sex and the City writer and author of He's Just Not That Into You

Richard Rushfield has written a smart, funny, fish-out-of-water love letter to the 80's. Vivid settings plus memorable characters and wry humor equals one totally awesome memoir. -Moon Zappa

"I can't imagine a more unique or uproarious depiction of the post- Reagan, pre-grunge era." - Anna David, author of Bought, host of "Attack of the Show!" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham (October 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592404537
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592404537
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,217,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Al on November 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book because I've had two kids go to Hampshire College. Richard Rushfield can tell a good story, and I was quite entertained by his descriptions of his crowd's coming-of-age hijinks. Being a 'Boomer myself, I am not that familiar with the avant-garde pre-grunge scene depicted in, "Don't Follow Me..." Hampshire can still be a haven for alienated angst-ridden outcasts and to be sure, Political Correctness can be over-the-top. Still, I found parts of the book disturbing. Maybe it is Rushfield's lack of introspection, given the distance of time. Sure, lots of us did things as teenagers, that in retrospect, were incredibly stupid, dangerous, insensitive or immature. But, even 20 years later, he still seems to revel too much in the re-telling. He and his buddies did everything they could to piss off the maximum number of people possible, and clearly succeeded spectacularly. They took advantage of Hampshire's culture of permissiveness and toleration and threw it back in the faces of those who were trying to accommodate this band of misfits. In most other colleges, they would have been expelled long ago, if not brought up on criminal charges.

To be sure, some of their 'activities' were funny, and certainly the irony or parody was lost on too many other members of this earnest community. I just wish there was more acknowledgment that these guys were ultimately misguided. I suspect that Rushfield still doesn't think so.
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Format: Hardcover
I found "Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost" overly hyperbolic and disappointingly uninspired. It doesn't doesn't go where it needs to go or reveal anything meaningful about the characters. Everything just sort of happens to Rich. We don't get any emotional or intellectual insight beyond Rich being bewildered. There isn't any real story, which could be fine in a memoir, but it is as if Rich's actual thoughts and feelings have been excised from the book.

Most disappointing is the lack of self-awareness from the author. He talks about how he and his friends lived in a squalid mess, unable to muster the energy to clean or even shop for food. I remember the prevailing theory at the time was that these were kids who weren't used to being without the housekeeper and the nanny. If that isn't the explanation, then what is? Rich didn't seem to recognize then, and perhaps doesn't now, that Hampshire's biggest problems stemmed from being a young institution with a weak endowment. They just didn't have the money to uphold ideals. This is why someone could be such a problem on campus and not get kicked out. It wasn't luck or cleverness. It was paying full tuition. Other than one mention of being surprised to find out that his "working class rocker" friend wasn't working class, Rich doesn't touch on the class issue at all, yet there was a big class issue at Hampshire which no one wanted to recognize.

This book has a few amusing points. It's unfortunate that he was assigned to the dreaded "quiet floor" his first semester, but he treats this as the reason for everything that follows. The torpor over his group as they try to get to Denny's felt like the most genuine and interesting passage in the book.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book because I went to a similar east coast college during the exact same time period and thought I might be able to relate to it. While there were bits that made me smile in recognition (rich kids acting working class, everyone dressing like old men, humorless pc types) there was no point to what he was writing. No story, no emotional development, not even any funny anecdotes or serious tragedies(other than the shocking suicide by cyanide that he briefly touches on - I kept screaming in my head, "No,no, go back to that incident, you finally brought up something worth discussing"). I REALLY don't get the reviewers who wrote this book was laugh out loud funny. I found it mind numbing in its banality. Those pages and pages and pages devoted to going to Dennys - I had to force myself to continue(I hate not finishing books or movies). I kept wondering how many of those people were clinically depressed. Most, I think. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy reading memoirs of people who have led dark or unhappy lives - The Basketball Diaries, Running with Scissors, Cherry, etc. Those authors, however, wrote about their emotions, their feelings, their development and change,exciting adventures, shocking lows. Devoting entire sections of a book to well, nothing, was not deep or significant but dull. I really wonder who he knows in publishing that got him this book deal. I can only imagine all the other more interesting memoirs that could have been published rather than this. It could have been a good article in a magazine but stretched as a book - nope.
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if holden caulfield stepped into an h.g wells times machine and popped out several decades later in western mass, he would naturally find his way to hampshire college-- and be the kind of person richard rushfield, author of this rather jejune memoir, strives to be. while he's good at set-piece satires-- i rather enjoyed his debut novel about hollywood called "on spec"-- rushfield's autobiographical treatment of his druggy, dystopic college days is really same old, same old, like one of those saturday night live sketches that go on way too long.

there is really no one to root for in this entropic rendering of life at hampshire college in the 80s. it's animal house meets animal farm, judging from the squalor and filth the author and his pals choose to live in. if he wanted to waste his parent's money in order to hang out at a college with countercultural cred, that's his choice. but material for a book? nah. the ridicule and observational humor is apatow-like, and i can't tolerate his adolescent films.

there's nothing grown up about this bildungrsoman. what's even sadder, is the boredom and tedium and monotony conveyed through the prism of his youthful eyes. while he's a perversely proud member of the anarchist campus clan, aka the supreme dicks, it becomes exhausting and worthless to read about these limp you know whats.

prediction: with the author's hollywood and magazine ties, expect fox or fx or showtime or hbo to one day make a series about a dysfunctional liberal arts college in the pre-dot.com mid to late 80s.

if you are in your late teens, angst-ridden and artsy and looking for a party school to do your own thing, this book is for you. or if you had gone to hampshire but don't remember much of your time there, think of this book as a refresher course. everyone else, make a wise detour.
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