New in Books
X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything from Sucking
by Jeff Gordinier
The clot of people commonly referred to as Generation X was born with one great hope: their disillusionment with the poisonous optimism of their forbears. X Saves the World is ostensibly an examination of how this antibody makes them fit to hold the reins of world power. The result, however, is a perplexing jumble. The first two-thirds of the book contain an extensive cultural history of the '90s, in which both a political uprising in the Czech Republic and the debut airing of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on 120 Minutes are given equal weight. There comes a comparison between the lyrics of Kurt Cobain and John Donne, and then later a self-deprecating joke at the author's expense for doing so, and Cobain, Coupland, and Linklater act as some kind of holy trinity.
Throughout, Gordinier seems resentful that he isn't afforded the same great moments that baby boomers are incessantly recalling. And so he sets out to claim such moments, in the last third of the book, in a section with the cringingly embarrassing title "I Will Dare Not Sucking." At this point, the reader is brought to the present with a brain-bending barrage of entities that "save the world," such as YouTube, Stephen Colbert, and something called the Poetry Bus. Notwithstanding the obligatory profiles of a couple of charitable do-gooders, the book's thesis falls flat in that it affects no change beyond the cursory. I do not know quite what to make of this pile of inanities, but I know that it is neither good nor useful. It's a heavy dose of reluctant nostalgia followed by a whopping slap on the back, making the book comparable to the generation that it lauds, full of inane and self-referential egoism.