Book Scene: A Look Back at Generation X and “The 90s” | Explore Yakima
When I started reading “The Nineties,” a simple white paper with a plain, ridiculous landline phone on the cover, I was struck by the quality of research it contained. It looked like a history book, so I was surprised to find that it was firmly rooted in our social studies section. I then spent the rest of the book trying to figure out why it was a kind of social science rather than history.
“The Nineties” begins by explaining the standard complaints of an older generation towards younger ones. In one of his many very concise and concise statements, he explains how the older generation inevitably sees the younger as “soft”, and that’s a good thing. That if the younger generations weren’t seen that way, it was because progress had stalled and life had become noticeably harder for everyone.
It’s a book about Generation X. The smallest of the modern generations, the ones entering adulthood in the 1990s. It’s about that generation, and it tries to understand it objectively. “The Nineties” also examines the impact of that decade on the two decades we’ve had since.
It starts with how, in this decade, misinformation could be an accident rather than the deliberate choice it is now. It then moves on to Kurt Cobain and how he encapsulated the Gen-X “don’t sell” mindset that permeated the decade. We have here an example of what I particularly appreciated in this book. Having lived through the 90s, I remember how uncool sold-outs were, but no one sees the pursuit of commercial success as a problem anymore. I can watch these thoughts with a kind of amused longing and wonder, “What was I thinking? So the book tells me, and I remember.
It covers the careers of Quintin Tarantino, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Alanis Morissette, Garth Brooks, the steroid-fueled baseball renaissance, the rise of the internet, and many other popular cultural phenomena of the decade. He remembers in disbelief the fight where Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear. And in the final chapters, he examines politics. Thinking back to the Clinton presidency, when you examine the details of the sexual abuse he committed while in office – as the whole world did back then – it’s hard to imagine a liberal president being any other something reviled. But indeed, he enjoyed his highest approval ratings immediately after his impeachment.
Again, the comparison and contrast with our present versus then views is what makes this book shine. What ultimately makes this book great is that it doesn’t so much examine the era as it allows the reader to examine themselves.
• “The Nineties” by Chuck Klostermann was published by Penguin Press on February 8th. It sells for $28 in hardcover.
• Tony Hoffart works for Inklings Bookshop. He and other Inklings staff review books in the Sunday Explore section each week.