An instant New York Times bestseller!
From the bestselling author of But What if We’re Wrong, a wise and funny reckoning with the decade that gave us slacker/grunge irony about the sin of trying too hard, during the greatest shift in human consciousness of any decade in American history.
It was long ago, but not as long as it seems: The Berlin Wall fell and the Twin Towers collapsed. In between, one presidential election was allegedly decided by Ross Perot while another was plausibly decided by Ralph Nader. In the beginning, almost every name and address was listed in a phone book, and everyone answered their landlines because you didn’t know who it was. By the end, exposing someone’s address was an act of emotional violence, and nobody picked up their new cell phone if they didn’t know who it was. The 90s brought about a revolution in the human condition we’re still groping to understand. Happily, Chuck Klosterman is more than up to the job.
Beyond epiphenomena like "Cop Killer" and Titanic and Zima, there were wholesale shifts in how society was perceived: the rise of the internet, pre-9/11 politics, and the paradoxical belief that nothing was more humiliating than trying too hard. Pop culture accelerated without the aid of a machine that remembered everything, generating an odd comfort in never being certain about anything. On a 90’s Thursday night, more people watched any random episode of Seinfeld than the finale of Game of Thrones. But nobody thought that was important; if you missed it, you simply missed it. It was the last era that held to the idea of a true, hegemonic mainstream before it all began to fracture, whether you found a home in it or defined yourself against it.
In The Nineties, Chuck Klosterman makes a home in all of it: the film, the music, the sports, the TV, the politics, the changes regarding race and class and sexuality, the yin/yang of Oprah and Alan Greenspan. In perhaps no other book ever written would a sentence like, “The video for ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was not more consequential than the reunification of Germany” make complete sense. Chuck Klosterman has written a multi-dimensional masterpiece, a work of synthesis so smart and delightful that future historians might well refer to this entire period as Klostermanian.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Pop-culture expert Chuck Klosterman will make you long for the days before everything went digital. In this fun, eye-opening look at the 1990s, the best-selling author remembers the decade as a time when music, culture, and technology felt like they were on the edge of something life-altering—even if people just didn’t know quite what it was yet. With his trademark wit and on-point references, Klosterman provides fun, in-depth analysis on topics ranging from science’s first cloned sheep to the phenomenon of “must-see TV” to the ins and outs of Major League Baseball. We’ve always loved Klosterman’s droll brand of Midwestern snark—and The Nineties is full of it, especially as he examines what it was like to live in the last mostly offline era. Lace up your combat boots and travel back in time to the decade of grunge.
Pop culture critic and essayist Klosterman (Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs) turns his flinty eye to the 1990s, "the last period in American history when personal and political engagement was still viewed as optional." Blending cultural analysis with his own caustic hot takes, Klosterman claims that the chief characteristic of the '90s was a pervasive feeling of ambivalence, "defined by an overwhelming assumption that life... was underwhelming" (his writing has a similarly detached tone). He views how this societal apathy coursed through the decade's indie films, such as Larry Clark's 1995 cult hit Kids (its theme: "there was no meaning to anything, ever"), and was embodied by Nirvana's Nevermind, the ideal soundtrack for, as Kurt Cobain put it, "a completely exhausted Rock youth Culture." But at the same time, Klosterman counters, the decade gave rise to art that tackled timely issues including the AIDs epidemic with Rent debuting on Broadway in 1994 and brought queer stories to TV via such shows as NBC's Will & Grace. "The world, as always, was changing," he writes, citing how the decade saw a shift in everything from politics and awareness around race to the explosive growth of the internet and celebrity culture a preview, he writes, of what was to come in subsequent decades. This nostalgic look at the waning days of offline culture both piques and entertains.
Nice recap of the nineties
Forgot how much went on during the decade…