Thursday, December 13, 2012
A Matter of Time: The Unauthorized Back to the Future Lexicon
A good historian is someone who is curious, methodical, and can bring order to chaos.
A good historian is someone who is meticulous to the point of being obsessive about the details.
And a good historian can tie things together in a way that surprises, enlightens, and educates his or her readers.
Author Rich Handley (From Aldo to Zira: Lexicon of the Planet of the Apes, Timeline of the Planet of the Apes) is a very good historian indeed.
His latest book, A Matter of Time: The Unofficial Back to the Future Lexicon is ample evidence of this fact. It’s a 339-page text that leaves no factoid unturned in its exploration of the Back to the Future film trilogy and all its spin-offs. And like the movies this encyclopedia explores so assiduously, the book is also a hell of a lot of fun.
Handley writes in his introduction that his new text is “designed for anal-retentive, die-hard fans, as well as those who simply enjoy the movies.” However, I think he’s soft-peddling the obsessive nature of the book there. The abbreviation key alone provides nearly four dozen sources of information on the Back-to-the-Future-verse, from interviews with the writers to music videos, to “photographs hanging in the Doc Brown’s Chicken restaurant at Universal Studios.”
You want complete? Hello, McFly! This encyclopedia is complete. There are (exhaustive) entries on every detail in the mythos from the bicycle shop seen in Courthouse Square (in 1955) to the von Braun family album. The book incorporates facts from an animated series, video games, amusement park rides and more…half of which, I must confess, I didn’t even know existed.
I can’t claim that my passion with Back to the Future runs as nearly deep as my passion for Planet of the Apes, but I am unhealthy obsessed, no doubt, with Back to the Future Part II (1989). It’s actually my favorite film in the cycle -- kind of a Back to the Future Unbound -- and in my opinion it’s a seriously underrated and technically accomplished film. I liked the original 1985 movie just fine, but it played, in some sense, on romantic nostalgia for a decade/time period I never lived through. Back to the Future Part II travels to the past, the future, and even “inside” the events of the first movie. It’s a crazy brilliant film that moves at a breakneck pace.
Reading through A Matter of Time, I really wanted to watch Back to the Future Part II again, and perhaps review it here on the blog. Handley’s text reminded me of that film’s sense of joy…and utter madness. It left me feeling "Fired Up," to refer to a 2015 Marty McFly and the Pinheads compilation album (addressed in the book on page 93).
If Rich Handley keeps writing books of this depth and detail every year, I have no doubt his hair will soon go as stark white as Doc Brown’s.
Occupational hazard for madmen historians, I suppose…