I’m about 30 pages into Chuck Klosterman’s The Nineties. Klosterman is one of my favorite non-fiction writers, especially when it comes to American pop culture. The book looks to be a 300-page dissection of what it was like to live in what many of us (myself included) have called a last kind of decade (before the ubiquity of the internet, Apple, and everything else that came in the early 2000s).
And right on time, UnHerd has posted a piece by Douglas Coupland, one of my favorite fiction (and non-fiction) writers. Coupland coined the term Generation X, a book I finally got around to reading during my first year in Honolulu). Along with discovering Dave Eggers, Coupland and Klosterman helped me reflect on a decade I had grown up in (but was by no means fully entrenched in). The piece is an interesting read. I’m not sure I agree with all of Coupland’s assertions, but I think he gets the sense of things right.
Part of what is interesting for me now, of course, is the sense that I have of moving through time, that things have changed for me even over the last ten years as a teacher who often relies on the greater narrative of culture to make connections. So much of that is lost; it really only remains because of Marvel movies. And even then . . .
Here’s one quote from the piece about the 90s (and the quintessential MTV Unplugged concert by Nirvana) that I quite like:
It was the opposite of right now, when everything drags on forever. Marshall McLuhan said that when one medium makes another obsolete, it frees up that previous medium to become an art form — which is what happened with the internet eclipsing TV. Around the early 2000s you had the Sopranos and other long-form TV programming emerge, shows which could genuinely be considered art. Recently there’s a new Soprano’s show based on Tony Soprano’s early life, The Many Saints of Newark. If they announced that next month the Muppets were doing a Soprano’s variant, I wouldn’t be surprised. As I said, everything goes on forever these days, sprawling out into seasons of episodes and spawning relentless new iterations.
It was Coupland, of course, who put me in the direction of Marshall McLuhan a few years ago when he penned a quick biography of the Canadian thinker. I’m curious to see where Klosterman lands by the end of his book. But I’ll also probably take my time to enjoy the read.