Review: Taking a deep dive into a quieter decade | Book Reviews and News

J. KEMPER CAMPBELL

“The Nineties: A Book” by Chuck Klosterman, Penguin Press, 370 pages, $28.

Time is the only thing shared simultaneously by every living creature. Humans attempt to comprehend the naturally chaotic experience of life by organizing its segments into defined periods which become known as history. “The Nineties” is one of these segments.

Chuck Klosterman is a prolific author of nonfiction books and articles on what he feels are important aspects of American society including sports, movies, music, politics and inventions. He was a contributing editor for the ESPN sports and entertainment blog “Grantland,” founded by journalist, writer and noted Boston Red Sox fan, Bill Simmons.

The blog was among this reviewer’s most visited websites prior to its cancellation in 2015. Grantland’s archive masthead permanently enshrines Nebraska basketball player, Terran Petteway, alongside Heather Graham, David Duchovny and Seth Rogen.

Author Klosterman is a keen observer of the ever-changing panorama of modern America. In this book he tries to mention each significant personality, trend or innovation of the 10 years which ended the twentieth century.

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Obviously, readers will disagree with some of his choices. Nebraskans will be happy to find Tom Osborne’s top-rated teams of 1994 and ’97 in his description of the confusion caused by the “Bowl Coalition” method of choosing a national college football champion.

Readers, like this reviewer, who still consider Danny and the Juniors avant-garde will find Klosterman’s lengthy piece on the impact of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain upon American music confusing.

However, his analysis of the early development of cellular phones and home computers will be fascinating. The impact of H. Ross Perot and Ralph Nader on the elections of 1992 and 2000 is equally insightful. However, contrasting former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan with Oprah Winfrey seems both puzzling and arbitrary. Along the way to his conclusions about him, he often drops tidbits of pop culture such as Garth Brooks preferring to use his middle name since his first name is Troyal.

Ultimately the value of the book will be the readers’ discovery of a mother lode of nostalgia for a relatively tame era in our country.

This reviewer fondly recalled playing the computer game “Return to Zork” on his shiny new blue iMac and was prompted to find an audio recording of the original AOL greeting reminding users that “You’ve got mail.”

Revisiting a decade which did not have the United States involved in a world war, presidential assassination or pandemic provides a pleasant interlude during this period of international stress.

J. Kemper Campbell, MD, is a retired Lincoln ophthalmologist who still uses the Jar Jar Binks mousepad he won along with two tickets to the Lincoln midnight premier showing of “The Phantom Menace” in 1999.

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