Friday, February 27, 2009
X Saves the World
Heard author Jeff Gordinier read from his book "X Saves the World" last night at the University of Pennsylvania.
I'm not one to gush, but this amazing book changed the way I view my world. For years, I've wondered why I felt so out of place and alienated from people younger and older than myself. I felt trapped in my job and my life, bothered by this nagging urge to escape. After reading Gordinier's book, it was as if someone threw a switch and everything started making sense.
My generation has been uncomfortable with admitting they are a generation. For the people born between 1965 and 1980, our early lives were defined by coming of age in the 1980s and the pop culture that surrounded us. Our Baby Boomer parents believed they were the generation that changed everything, that made the largest social impact and advanced America politically and culturally. They embodied this free-wheeling, free-spirit zeitgeist of the 1960s, of "power to the people" which inevitably gave way to the 1980s ethos "the one who dies with the most toys wins."
Generation X rejected the Baby Boomer's selfish groupthink and turned inward toward self-reflection and even self-loathing. There were no leaders of Generation X, no dynamic movements or force to get behind. All we had was a distrust of authority, corporations and the media.
Gordinier's book examines not only the ridiculousness of the Baby Boomer, but of the generation that came after Generation X: the Millennials, who are infused with technology and a sense of mandatory conformism that would make any Xer cringe.
If the Baby Boomers are the past, stubbornly clinging on to the limelight, the Millennials are the Baby Boomer's second act; a generation of texting, bubblegum pop-listening consumers gladly paying money for the right brand of jeans and the hottest and latest thing.
Such things bother the stoic Gen Xers, who incline towards the cynical and satirical. X Saves the World explores the Xer culture of the 1990s, from Nirvana's breakthrough album "Nevermind", to the films "Slacker", "Pulp Fiction" and "Office Space", and why we're the last generation to think creating art and doing what we want is preferable to just making money and amassing status symbols.
Yet Gen Xers, for all their talk of being ignored, have revolutionized media, from the creation of Google and YouTube, to the satirical newspaper The Onion, to comedians John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Unlike the Boomers, whose revolutions were highly-publicized media events and rallies where everyone could partake, the Gen Xers, very quietly and without fanfare, constructed their own stealth revolution against stupidity and conformity.
It was very fun reading and Q&A session, where Gordinier answered questions and explained the ideas in the book.