The author launched his career as a social critic with a much-discussed Details essay that asked, “Has Generation X Already Peaked?” Here’s the answer (no), now bloated to book length.
According to Gordinier, without Gen X’s contributions to music, art, film, sociology and, most importantly, technology, society would be a vastly different place. That’s a reasonable response to loud critics who have called X the “slacker generation.” It’s also almost as obvious and amorphous as the author’s broader thesis that just as past generations have defined their eras, so too has X defined ours. Gordinier undermines his defense with a meandering argument that reads like a lengthy self-applied pat on the back. The many pop references, carefully selected so his peers will be sure to get them, are not notable for their shrewd insights. The author apparently thinks Kurt Cobain was the first rock star ever to be overwhelmed by the misery of sudden fame. He likens Paris Hilton to the bad kids in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (the 1971 movie, that is, from which “vast numbers of Generation Xers learned all their moral lessons”). He treats us to the hot-off-the-presses revelation that Quentin Tarantino’s filmmaking is shaped not by a graduate degree, but by all those movies the director-to-be watched while working in a video store. Given Gordinier’s inability to move beyond his own tastes, accomplishments and even angst, it’s not too surprising that the misleading opening section, “Quick First-Person Tangent,” takes up more than half of the book. The author is actually a decent representative for the generation he seeks to defend: He traveled to Prague on a whim to take part in the Velvet Revolution and eschewed graduate school to become a rock journalist. Unfortunately, his disproportionate attention to his own memories skews his project.
A fit of nostalgia and self-aggrandizement disguised as a generational call to arms.