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THE NINETIES by Chuck Klosterman Kirkus Star


A Book

by Chuck Klosterman

Pub Date: Feb. 8th, 2022
ISBN: 978-0-7352-1795-9
Publisher: Penguin Press

Klosterman returns with an entertaining journey through the last decade of the 20th century.

“Almost every meaningful moment of the nineties was captured on videotape, along with thousands upon thousands of trivial moments that meant nothing at all,” writes the author. “The record is relatively complete. But that deluge of data remained, at the time, ephemeral and unavail­able. It was still a present-tense existence.” In this retrospective, which examines a decade that most of his readers lived though, Klosterman acknowledges that “there is always a disconnect between the world we seem to remember and the world that actually was.” Throughout the wide-ranging narrative—from technology and the rise of the internet to key trends in music, TV, and film; indelible moments in sports; and significant political moments—Klosterman takes pains to ensure that references are addressed in relation to their historical context rather than through the foggy and often inaccurate lens of memory. He brings the decade to vivid new life, whether he’s discussing attempts to classify Generation X; how the ascendency of grunge “initiated rock’s recession from the center of society”; or the unprecedented phenomena of Meet Joe Black being the “all-time highest grossing movie among ticket buyers who did not watch one minute of the film” (many theatergoers entered to view the “131-second trailer for The Phantom Menace” before walking out). In the 1990s, writes the author, “No stories were viral. No celebrity was trending. The world was still big. The country was still vast. You could just be a little person, with your own little life and your own little thoughts. You didn’t have to have an opinion, and nobody cared if you did or did not.” As in his previous books of cultural criticism, Klosterman delivers a multifaceted portrait that’s both fun and insightful.

A fascinating examination of a period still remembered by most, refreshingly free of unnecessary mythmaking.