the book is inevitably already out of date


Books At the turn of the millennium, I was so tired from watching all twenty-six hours of the BBC's coverage and full of cold that I didn’t have the inclination to ponder the magnitude of what had been and what was to come. Or so I thought. At the turn of this new decade, on this second day of the teens, I’m not even sure what perspective really is. I spent most of yesterday nervously awaiting a new Doctor Who and writing what I thought about it.

That’s why my Noughties lists have been a mishmash and managed to talk a lot without saying much at all, probably. Not helped by my short memory. It’s for history to decide what a decade was “about” and its “defining moments”. Thirty years is my guesstimate as to how long that will take, based on the fact that only now are we really beginning to understand how the eighties influenced the way we live now (or exactly what Thatcher did).

It’s the challenge Tim Footman acknowledges in the conclusion to his entertaining book, The Noughties: a decade that changed the world. Even without the benefit of hindsight, its difficult to really disagree with his choices. 9/11 was the moment when we all realised the kind of decade it was going to be and global warming, reality tv, web 2.0, surveillance culture, the death of the highstreet, the long tail, globalisation and the credit crunch will probably be the defining characteristics, the broad strokes.

Diversification has made it impossible to quantify any one of these spans of time in a particularly meaningful way, especially since in a post-modernity society, the past and present intermingle to such a degree that the characteristics of the noughties are really an intermingling of culture from everywhere and any time. As he neatly encapsulates, family photos taken in 1960 and 1969 would be radically different, whereas similar shots between 2000 and 2009 would probably offer little difference, give or take a flat-screen tv.

The fashion trends of the 00s are really just the trends of 20s, 60s and 70s repackaged. Same for music. Same for film. Same for war too actually. But somehow Footman manages to highlight the important themes that are singularly noughties phenomena and its impossible not to find yourself nodding your head and giggle as you're reminded of something which you'd forgotten, reminding the reader that ten years can be a long time, especially now.

The book is inevitably already out of date, despite its slim publication schedule. As the author himself acknowledges, he'll probably miss some big event that really defines the decade and sadly for him that's what happened. How he must have chuckled when Rage Against The Machine became the Christmas number one, an event that neatly encapsulates most of his concerns (though there's no mention of it on his blog of the book).

Created on the web through social networking, the Rage single's success expresses the potency of the long tail and people’s embracing of old and new music due to its new accessibility, a reaction against culture defined by reality tv, reaching the top slot despite not having been produced as a physical product therefore bypassing the high street and whose title “Killing in the name of...” sadly captures the attitude of both the decade's governments and terrorists.

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