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X Marks the Spot

11 Jul

I’ve always been kind of fascinated by reading about myself. Or rather, articles and books that discuss my generation or groups I’m a part of. So that’s why I chose Jeff Gordinier’s X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft But Can Still Keep Everything from Sucking as my latest book to read. I’ve now finished it (hooray!) and wanted to weigh in.

In the book, Gordinier posits that Generation X, the generation that’s often perceived as misunderstood, hard to categorize, and largely ignored, has the unfortunate luck of being sandwiched between the self-centered Baby Boomers and the self-centered Millennials. And because it’s often pigeon-holed as being forgotten, the accomplishments of Gen X are often overlooked. To wit: members of Gen X created YouTube, Google, Wikipedia, and Craigslist. Zines, a Gen X creation, were the progenitor of blogs. Netscape changed the face of Web browsing. Jon Stewart, Barack Obama, Kurt Cobain, and Dave Eggers are all members of Gen X. In essence, we, the members of Generation X, have a lot to be proud of.

So why are we always overlooked? Gordinier’s major thesis is that it’s because Boomers and Millenials keep hogging the spotlight, either by comparing their accomplishments to ours (Boomers) or by adopting and assuming ownership of our creations (Millenials). “The boomers never came up with anything that approaches the hugeness of Google,” he writes. “John Lennon got bitch-slapped for saying the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, but Google … gives God a run for His money.” Gordinier, also an editor-at-large at Details magazine, adds that we are a generation that doesn’t want or crave attention, and we’re happy to make change happen quietly, almost under the radar, if it brings us personal satisfaction. Getting attention isn’t the goal, like it is for so many Millenials (Paris Hilton takes a pretty big — albeit expected — hit for that), and that only serves to make our accomplishments that much more significant. And that’s also probably why you may not have heard of the Poetry Bus, for example, which gets almost as much space in the book as Nirvana and Lauryn Hill.

Amid the pop culture and political references and recaps of case studies we’ve heard before, Gordinier makes a moderately effective call to action, and says we’re nearing the time when Gen X can reclaim its rightful place in the world. “The Bush crowd will be gone soon, and then we can pounce,” he writes.

I’m not sure the book is as compelling as I’d hoped it’d be, but it’s a pretty easy read and it oftentimes reaffirms the belief that Generation X is not a bunch of slackers. I wish the book was more rallying cry or manifesto like it is at the very end, but there’s something to be said for learning from others’ example. Sure, I may not have changed the world like some people have, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be proud to be associated (in the most minimal of connections) with the people Gordinier includes. And hey, like the author encourages, maybe my time is coming. Stay tuned.

(And if you want to hear more about this book, here’s a video of Gordinier explaining what it’s all about.)