17 August 2008

X Saves the World by Jeff Gordinier (Viking Press 2008)

Jeff Gordinier is unflinching in X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Skill Keep Everything from Sucking. The book is as much a call to action for Generation X as it is a rant about the generations between which it is sandwiched -- the ubiquitous Boomers and the up-and-coming Millennials (aka Generation Y).

Gordinier echoes demographers' arguments about the parameters of Generation X while adding another level by suggesting, via Douglas Coupland, that Generation X is as much a mindset as a birthdate. He is also careful to admit that he is making broad generalizations throughout the book and that being born during a given year does not automatically make one fall into step with everyone else born that year.

That said, no matter how you slice the Gen X pie, I fall squarely into the demographic both by birth and by attitude. I'm not sure how non-Xers would react to this book; likely call us all whiners and write it off as more gloom but the crazy thing is, there's a lot of hope in this book. It feels a lot like the end of V for Vendetta; I won't spoil the ending but I left the theatre feeling an overwhelming sense that change -- real change -- was achievable.

There were sections I skimmed -- personally, I could care less about Nirvana but Gordinier hangs an awful lot of his book on the impact of both "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and also on Kurt Cobain's suicide. I also skimmed Gordinier's take on the Poetry Bus -- something I had never heard of prior to this book and will not bother to research further.

On the other hand, I reveled in his descriptions of the internet boom and bust, about the movies and the directors who speak for and to our generation, and about Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart who brought Generation X's brand of subversive humour to the main stage.

Throughout X Saves the World, I found myself laughing ("By 1999 a fecal tide of suckitude, suckness, and suckronicity was upon us..."1), nodding (oh, yeah, I have definitely encountered the "grey ceiling"), and making note of suggested ways I could help keep my world from sucking.


1 Introduction, p. xxiv

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