It is a thoughtful and engaging trip down the Gen-X rabbit hole ... Despite what you may think, this is not a nostalgic book. In so many ways, the fog of nostalgia clouds our perspective on the past. Klosterman not only steers clear of that impulse, he pushes in a direction that is more straightforwardly analytical. This is a book that explores what happened and the subsequent consequences, and along the way, he breaks down the difference between the truth of the moment and the fictionalized stories we tell ourselves ... a bit different than the usual Klosterman fare. It’s a bit headier and a bit more serious, though he never loses track of the sense of the absurd that makes him such an engaging read. Serious, but not self-serious, if that makes sense—Klosterman is writing from a place of thoughtful consideration and in-depth analysis, but he also never stops being funny. It is a clever, smart book that will evoke memories while also causing you to question those same memories.
There’s no one more qualified to write [this] than Chuck Klosterman. Always an astute cultural observer and a fan of deep dives into any subject, Klosterman is focused here on a decade in American life that he says is often portrayed as 'a low-risk grunge cartoon' ... There’s nostalgia on every page ... Klosterman’s gift is seizing on those moments that any Gen Xer can readily recall and pulling the strings a bit to put it in some kind of historical perspective ... Klosterman does a good job putting everything in its place.
Compared with the average cultural critic today, whose sensibility was likely shaped by ardent online fandoms and obsessions, Klosterman is cool, even detached. You can find that off-putting, or you can find it (as I do) a refreshing change ... The Nineties isn’t nostalgic—not exactly, at least, since nostalgia implies a voiced dissatisfaction with the present, and Klosterman is too shrewd to waste his time on that ... The Nineties is more a collection of salvaged items than a narrative or an argument. It makes no pretense to comprehensiveness. It’s an eccentric buffet, from which you are free to savor what appeals to you most ... 'Part of the complexity of living through history,' Klosterman writes, 'is the process of explaining things about the past that you never explained to yourself' ... This is by far the most intriguing facet of this book, because who really needs another reflection on the significance of Kurt Cobain ... Is that a project worth attempting? Klosterman argues, persuasively, that it is, because the transformation was so profound. At the same time, it can only be reflected in seemingly trivial fragments ... Klosterman loves a paradox...but he has little interest in following it to a conclusion that weighs in on whether this transformation was good or bad ... Completely surprising, an increasingly rare phenomenon in cultural criticism at a time when everyone seems to say pretty much what you expect them to say. For this reader, at least, that will never go out of style.