Exploring the art of prose


Tag: Nostalgia

Author’s Note

This essay started with a tweet. One night I was thinking about how many movies and TV shows of the ’70s and ’80s had someone sinking in quicksand. The response to my tweet showed me that lots of other people noticed it as well, which led to a tweet about all the other things we were scared of growing up in the ’80s. In the thread, the same things kept coming up again and again, as if all of us, even though we lived in different parts of the country, were one collective consciousness.

I also loved the Choose Your Own Adventure books as a child. While I was thinking about all the things we were afraid of, it occurred to me how often we were told to be afraid: by our parents, by the news, by the books we read. It’s probably not 100% accurate, but I seem to recall danger lurking within every choice made in the Choose Your Own Adventure books—at least the ones I read—so I wrote one where all the choices lead to some thing we were once afraid of.

As for structure—I rarely write in second person. But not only were the Choose Your Own Adventure books written in the second person, the participatory nature of my tweets asked for it. Of course the essay is about me, but it is also about you—all of you who shared the same fears I did. And while I don’t remember the title of any specific Choose Your Own Adventure book, the fear I felt as a child of the ’80s told me how to end the essay.


PAUL CRENSHAW is the author of the essay collections This One Will Hurt You, published by The Ohio State University Press, and This We’ll Defend, from the University of North Carolina Press. Other work has appeared in Best American Essays, Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Pushcart Prize, Oxford American, Glimmer Train, and Tin House. Follow him on Twitter @PaulCrenstorm.