Chuck Klosterman: A Review
I just picked up Chuck Klosterman’s newest book: Eating the Dinosaur, and to commemorate the occasion, I figured I’d briefly review his 5 other books.
Let’s start at the beginning: Fargo Rock City
I must admit, it’s been sometime since I read this book, and it’s since been stolen (see: “borrowed”) from my collection. I don’t recall much about it, other than the countless hair-metal references and what it was like growing up as an isolated nerd in North Dakota. It was an entertaining read, and I recommend checking it out someday. Unfortunately, I don’t remember enough about it to give it a fair review here. But I’ll say this: If you like metal, and long for 1980’s pop culture nostalgia, you will probably dig it.
Next up is perhaps his most famous work (probably because the title includes the word “sex”): Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs This book was actually pretty cool. However, there wasn’t as much sex, drugs, or cocoa puffs as you’d imagine (in fact, I don’t even recall any cocoa puffs.) Rather a collection of Mr. Klosterman’s pop culture musings and views on contemporary American culture and how music, pop art and to a lesser extent – drugs play a role in the sorry excuse of a zeitgeist we call “American Culture.” From serial killers to 80’s basketball to Guns ‘n Roses cover bands, the author leaves no pop culture stone left unturned (seriously, the man explores porn, the Sims, the Real World and Christian Rap all in entertaining depth.) All in all, it’s a fine (and often times hilarious) read, and I strongly recommend adding it to your collection.
The third book by Klosterman is titled Killing Yourself to Live and it is perhaps my second-least favorite book by the author next to Fargo Rock City. It’s got one helluva title, but (in my opinion) that’s about it. The book centers around Klosterman visiting the death sites of various American (and British) musicians in search of some existential answers to questions he hasn’t yet asked – and may be answered by the connections (if any) that exist between the room that Kurt Cobain ate buckshot in, the hole in the ground that Lynard Skynard’s doomed flight met its fiery end and the New York sidewalk that John Lennon suffered his fatal shooting on. In the end, the reader is left not with an understanding of the transcendence that accompanies that tragic death of musicians, but rather an uneasy (and uncomfortable) perspective on what it’s like to get high with Mr. Klosterman off swag in a rented Ford Taurus and (more disturbingly) the sometimes (graphic) details of various sexual encounters he has had with women who ultimately left him. Would I recommend this book to others? No. Would I name a song after it? Yes (if Black Sabbath already hadn’t.)
Chuck Klosterman’s fourth book is appropriately titled Chuck Klosterman IV. Makes sense, right? The full name of the book (subtitle included) is: Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas, and it is perhaps one of my favorite works by the author. Unfortunately, this book was borrowed (see: stolen) without my permission (by a culprit to this day that has never been found.) What’s awesome about this book is that it is essentially a collection of very candid interviews with a very diverse group of individuals that lacks absolutely no candor nor prejudice, and is rather revealing and brilliant. Klosterman interviews a variety of celebrities from Radiohead and Bono, to Britney Spears and Val Kilmer. Beyond these incredible interviews (that read more like drunken confessions that the subject would later recant embarrassingly upon sobering up and realizing what they had revealed) are a series of cultural theories and revelations that Klosterman demonstrates to his readers from his brilliant assertion of “Advancement Theory” to the fundamental differences between the “nemesis” and the “archenemy” (which, I might add, gave me inspiration to my piece on the “Hierarchy of Douche.”*) In the end, it’s a very entertaining read, and something that shouldn’t just be reserved for reading on transcontinental flights, but something that belongs in your permanent library.
And this brings us to Klosterman’s first work of …FICTION! Yes, his fifth book (and first novel) Downtown Owl, is my favorite book to date by Klosterman, and I’m going to tell you why. The best way to describe this novel is by likening it to a Cohen Brothers film (the dark ones.) Downtown Owl is the literary equivalent to Fargo, No Country for Old Men, Blood Simple, and to a lesser extent – Burn After Reading. Yes, Downtown Owl is a dark comedy. Tragic, witty, morbid and satisfying. Much like the Cohen’s do in their films, Klosterman perfectly recreates a (somewhat) exaggerated slice of America and takes his readers back in time to the early 1980’s. The book takes place in Owl, North Dakota and centers around four very different characters and the lonely, desperate, and often times entertaining existences they live in this small, rural North Dakota town. Cut off culturally from most of America, the characters of this novel are tragically destined for nothing special in life, but all experience events that are extraordinary relative to their benign existence. The novel crecendos (see: climaxes) in a way that would make Alejandro González Iñárritu proud. In the end, most of us will be able to relate to the mindless depression that can permeate when you believe your life is stuck in neutral, and smirk (sadly) at the tragedy that is the perpetual struggle between one’s pipe dreams and one’s current reality (known colloquially as life.) This is a must read. So read it.
And this brings me to Klosterman’s current release: Eating the Dinosaur. I haven’t started it yet (although I have read the exerpt on football that ESPN.com featured on their Page 2 – which, may I add, was incredibly insightful and entertaining, even to those who have no interest in the gridiron.) I’m quite anxious to dig into this one and come back with a review once I’m finished.*The Hierarchy of Douche is as follows:
III. Douchebag (unaware that his actions are offensive/annoying) > II. Asshole (quite aware that his actions are offensive/annoying) > I. Badass (An asshole that does not give a fuck about how he acts to the point to which he becomes cool, and worthy of idol.)