Picks and Pans Review: Retrohell: Life in the '70s and '80s, from Afros to Zotz

updated 02/02/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/02/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

by the editors of Ben is Dead magazine.

Children of the Age of Irony, this is your life, in slack and white. Battle of the Network Stars, Suzy Chapstick, James at 15, Woodsy Owl—Retrohell is schlock-full of material that would have to feast on steroids before it could become trivia. These are subatomic quasi-trivia particles, isotopes of memories that, like uranium 235, are hard to find, impossible to get rid of and supremely powerful. What other reference book recalls spelling out SHELL OIL on a calculator or Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific shampoo? Styled like an Internet chat session (and about as factually unreliable), this Encyclopedia Insignifica makes an art form of pointless asides (a disquisition on the meanings of "dude" is hilarious), dubiously delicious rumors (did H.R. PufnStuf's initials really stand for "hand rolled"?) and sophomoric—maybe even freshmanic—gags (scope out the pun-laden entry on Russ Meyer's "melondramas"). Retrohell may not melt any calories, but it sure does burn up time, so it's an ideal gen-X-ercise manual. (Back Bay, $12.95)

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