It's hard to be brief about reviewing the best recent book on Generation X. Gordinier's book is an update on the adult Xer and his forgotten place between the narcissistic Boomers and the clueless Generation Y--whom Karen McCullough labels as a group with a "much higher self-esteem than their abilities". Gordinier's book bluntly captures the essence of Generation X transitioning from its last coming-of-age moments in the 90s to its entrepreneurial spirit which brought influenced artistic alternative music and movies, the dot-com boom, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Napster, Youtube, and Google.
Gordinier's writing smacks of sarcasm and in-your-face rhetoric, which is both honest and entertaining. His vocabulary and pop allusions are for those of us who are part of his Xer world. If not, see you you later. Gordinier's writing is a brief dip into nostalgic "Cooler King Moments" such as the arrival of Nirvana. It also lambasts the Boomers at Woodstalk '94 with descriptive passages, and recently their immersion into recycled Beatles nostalgia in Las Vegas. Gordinier also clarifies what it means to recognize kitsch--borrowing on the Czech struggles for freedom in the late 80s.
The first half of the book calls to me, as if it were my finally-discovered anthem. It is an instant classic, starting with the author's 1984 job at Laguna Beach selling ice cream and testing the awareness of tourists with indie alternative music. Pure hilarity! There are other anecdotes and moments that also pique the reader's interests, such as the bookend to the Xer's youth: an escape symbolically depicted with a 1999 Volkswagen Cabrio commercial to the tune of "Pink Moon." Gordinier's scene of a simple South Park neighborhood in San Francisco at the height of the dot-com boom is eerie.
However, the second half of the book begins to lag as the author seems to search for answers to his book's thesis. He uses trite examples such as a poetry bus, subsistence gardening, and a self-conscious and frustrating view of the Bush years. His language loses its luster and instead becomes preachy. Gordinier still makes fine observations, but some of them are politcally motivated--such as alluding to Barack Obama as representing the Xer cause (and forgetting that Obama's poetic rhetoric has yet to produce any kind of ideas or practical solutions that appeal to Xers. There is nothing to suggest that he will relate to the self-sufficient spirit of the Xer). Gordinier does provide one more humourous scene in which alternative artist, Moby, encounters a futuristically fried Brittney Spears. It's worth the moment.
Overall: 5/5 stars for the first half and 3/5 stars for the second half. The books is still worthy of 4 1/2 stars for its refreshing observations, its defiant tone and wit, and its dip into nostalgia. And even if my views are not necessarily one with Gordinier's, I give him credit for attempting to provide solutions for the dismal aspects of our society. I'll take that anyday over a politician's poetic nonsense and rhetoric.