by Chuck Klosterman
You say it’s two thousand WHAT? And I’m fifty-WHO? The nineties were just a few years ago, weren’t they?
This book was absolutely scrumptious. If I have a complaint, it was that it was almost too good to read for an hour at a time. It’s essays, and almost every one is fantastic; and getting to the end of one was often like when you want to turn off the music when one of your favorite songs ends. Maybe I’m the only one who does that? Oh. Moving on…
The essays don’t follow a narrative or temporal arc. Normally I might feel that to be a detraction. I loves me some strong plot lines. But real life doesn’t follow arcs, and that’s what this was about: what the nineties were really like. You have to accept whatever comes next.
Let’s put it this way, which is a good starting point: “Among the generations that have yet to go extinct, Generation X remains the least annoying.” Two words: Hear and Hear!
The “remember when” vibe is there in full force, but in ways that make you think. “Modern people worry about smartphone addiction, despite the fact that landlines exercised much more control over the owner. If you needed to take an important call, you just had to sit in the living room and wait for it.”
The most important thing about the nineties, though, and what he gets, over and over, is… how GOOD they were. Everything was really going… well. The economy? Boom. The cold war? Over. It was all going to be fine, and it didn’t really matter all that much who was going to be president or not… really, at the end of the day, one choice was as good as another. “Did the direction of change even matter? What’s the worst that could happen?” Exactly. I fooled around with third party candidates and affiliations; it was a good time to do that. I distinctly remember a friend of mine feeling slightly put off to see a protest against George W. Bush winning the election. Making a big deal about it seemed almost unseemly.
The entire Ted Kaczynski chapter was phenomenal. I take it back that I had only one complaint; this isn’t so much a complaint as a reaction of shock: WHERE ARE THE SIMPSONS? Could it be Klosterman just wasn’t that into them? But… sputter… that couldn’t be. Could it be he didn’t think they really had that much effect on the culture? I’m not culturally literate enough to really opine; but they were HUGE to me and everyone I knew. They got literally one reference.
It started with NEVERMIND and ended with the Twin Towers. Those were the nineties. And I’m Gen X, so the nineties are me: they were when I built myself.