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The Nineties: when surface was depth - Michael Bracewell
Publisher: Flamingo (2002)
Price from: £12.99
I've been doing Rodin's, 'The Thinker' pose as I meander an approach to how to write a response to Michael Bracewell's book: The Nineties: when surface was depth. I was hoping, well I had my fingers crossed, that he'd galvanized enthusiasm whether artificial or not in producing a book that should be about expressing a decade of excess, vibrancy, and new endeavors. Instead Bracewell threw all his charisma into the book and still came across characteristically monotone and still urgently required the 'Clockwork Radio' Inventor; Trevor Bayliss to wind him up. The Nineties book is about the nineties decade, yet notably by Bracewell's own self regulatory admissions includes trends from the 1970s. To be specific, according to Bracewell it all started in 1974 when culture found its place and offloaded a sprightly youthful wiry mullet that had more spring to it than 'Madam Whiplash's' king size mattress. I'm referring to David Essex. Kevin Keegan and Dave Lee Travis, they're names wont be repeated again. Bracewell, had the nerve to nostalgically reminisce over the 1970s and tried to stitch them up into the frame-work of the 1990s. He got away with it because time is notoriously fickle. There is no identity with time, only the cultural images as a voyeur has any significance; although this book is about the 1990's, lets not forget. Bracewell obviously wished it wasn't.
The title: 'The Nineties: when surface was depth,' entrapped me, not the picture of the front cover. For once, the cover wasn't a factor in my buying decision. Basically, a perspective view of a ceiling of blue squares with some precariously laid out white cubes; looks like a 'Pure Math' exercise book, my copy was in need of several coffee stained rings, just to break-up the boredom factor. Hardly epitomizes anything of what the *actual* decade was about. Of course except for the ideology of the emerging digital age that was forming in digital media and mobile telecommunications. Bracewell's journalistic style, android at times; depicted the culture of the 1990's as barely memorable; perhaps a dunce product from the two decades beforehand. A shallowness with no real grounding of anything *real* or anything sustainable to capsulate an era bludgeoned by superficiality.
The book shrills out echoes from culture commentator Brian Sewell whose distaste for modern culture is renown in the broader spectrum. Bracewell is merely a prophet of Sewell, who shares Sewell's invigorating marvels from the past masters; trying in earnest to re-incarnate the grandeur Renaissance ghosts; yet I do relate to it, worryingly too well in fact. The 1990s was just a taste of what was to come, as in the dying traits of the true hands-on craftsmen; incredulous rewards for the non gifted, in-turn the gifted shafted in response. Celebrity-ism exploded. Youthful Beckham riding on the crest of a media frenzy wave, and has been ever since. In fact I find Bracewell's interpretation of the era carried only an intellectual miserly snap-shot of what transformed.
Obviously Bracewell can unlock a good yarn if required; in 1988 he wrote a 'novella' called 'Missing Margate.' Yes, you've gathered the tone already haven't you, a morose style too the core. If there was any flamboyancy in this decade Bracewell was determined to sniff it out and continue with his droll as if nothing of inventive had happened. His walk through time denotes a guided tour through the National Gallery in Mid Winter, during a power-cut. You may pick-up Bracewell is rather blinkered when the decade portrays too much adventure, for some-one who has lived through it; there was a huge amount of prosperity, belief and available services compared to the beginning of the decade. Working practices completely changed. High growth warrants high reward. And that sadly derived from the financial sector. Decadence - High flying tags were thrown in the air like confetti. Wine Bars delved into incorporated new business arena's, for the rich, and not so rich. Post Modernism had gone chic. Or perhaps that is what the Chic said while ambling to a retro-bar trying to avoid colliding with the bar-stools. Stereotyping? Bracewell has had thirty years of practice and too the untrained eye is a gentleman with fine qualities that'll gain some Brownie points if mentioned down at the local community centre doing a life model class; drawing a tattooed Hispanic pensioner named Harold. Sadly, the rest of us will peruse and frown, looking down at the wrist watch wondering when the next offering will arrive, thinking: "Bracewell is sixty two years now, let's hope the potential of dementia will be kind to us."
"This was the point where Naturalism met Marketing - on an island off the coast of Camp."
Risqué images via performance or photography notably were not shock worthy. The colours of Bennetton tried it and though it got a couple of hundred complaints, it is small fry today. Blessed by the wonders of the internet and easy access to news-groups, complaint forums, you could sneeze and get three hundred complaints at a drop of a hanky. We live in completely different times from this era. Therefore Bracewell is deemed to me as spent fodder; his delusional wisdom via reading too many Post- Modernistic pundits even in 1997 after the tragic death of Diana provoked a Bracewell mirage that consisted of a rejoicing of sexual freedoms, all kinds. They're bathed in designer labeled attires wearing token ribbons; that'll be disregarded ten hours later. I get what Bracewell has deployed in his book, yet still I see signs of humanism; amongst the disintegrating spinal cord of the kidults, through excessive drug taking.
The heavy light grey box called Sony's PlayStation was a console that allowed interactive game-ware a plausible endeavor for all ages; by the time the end of the nineties elapsed into the 'noughties;' the digital age went 'worldly' mobile. Bracewell took several footnotes of these small trends that profoundly changed the spectrum of popular culture and mixed it up with a knock at the door of a scally-wag, buxom artist namely Tracey Emin, and a designer who'd likely to do something in the future, completely off the wall, Alexander McQueen. Mr. Bracewell did predict yet more mediocre song writings by party loving Simon Le Bon; hardly contemporary I hasten to add; although I found it a lighter moment in Bracewell's bland writing style.
Coherent in what a decade era is - Bracewell's thesis, articulated format is barely read-worthy. For those who systematically sponge for information for quizzes and general anecdotal charms Bracewell will entice you and add few a feathers to you're peacock egos. He knows the existence of the cultural treads that unlock notable identity decade images; but through the vastness of the decadence stance and snipes - it is easily misinterpreted. Inevitably Bracewell encroaches on the 'Post-Modernist' state far too readily; making me ponder whether he was the right Author to attempt this book; as it needed a frivolous character to encage the superficiality of the era itself.
Thank you for reading.