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Chuck Klosterman's New Book Out This Week
October 21, 2009 12:58 PM   Subscribe

Chuck Klosterman's new book of essays Eating The Dinosaur is out this week. You can read the first chapter, which features interviews with Ira Glass and Errol Morris. Chuck appeared on Bill Simmons' podcast [warning, browser resize] today.
posted by JakeWalker (31 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
[Expanded the compressed links. Please don't use those on mefi, they don't do anything useful here and have a number of shortcomings.]
posted by cortex at 1:03 PM on October 21, 2009


Here's another excerpt, surpisingly good, about football. (via spofi, too)
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 1:04 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have recently detected an alarming increase in the Ira Glass-ification of NPR reporters.

You know. [pause] Short sentences? [pause] That annoying tone of bemusement? [pause] And lots of pauses?
posted by Joe Beese at 1:13 PM on October 21, 2009


Excellent use of the &nbsp tag.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:19 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whenever Klosterman types anything, I get slightly sadder that Lester Bangs is dead.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 1:19 PM on October 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


Funny you should mention Bill Simmons' podcast. Earlier this year, he did a two-parter with Klosterman about the state of the declining newspaper industry, in which I completely lost most of my intellectual respect for Klosterman in one fell swoop. Really, Chuck, it's all the readers fault? Okaaayyy....
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:20 PM on October 21, 2009


I typically enjoy Klosterman despite his many detractors. Interested to hear that thing about the newspaper industry though.
posted by josher71 at 1:24 PM on October 21, 2009


I like Klosterman's defense of Billy Joel. Hell, yeah.
posted by grubi at 1:29 PM on October 21, 2009


NPR voice is the most annoying cadence on the planet there I said it.
posted by The Whelk at 1:58 PM on October 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


I read the football article this morning and thought it was interesting and insightful; I've never read anything else he's written but I think I'm pretty squarely in his demographic.
posted by camcgee at 2:10 PM on October 21, 2009


I await caustic attacks by clever people who would probably give a kidney to have Chuck Klosterman's job. To be fair to his critics, he can be self-indulgent (Killing Yourself To Live being one prominent example) but that man is paid to write about the kind of pop culture that lots of people will extemporize about at length for free.
Plus that Beatles review he did was hilarious.
posted by jeffen at 2:13 PM on October 21, 2009


"Whenever Klosterman types anything, I get slightly sadder that Lester Bangs is dead."

Amen. I'm not sure all the anti-Klosterman vitriol can be completely attributed to the actual quality of his work alone, but it's hard to read him without thinking of other free form essayists like Bangs, Hunter S. Thompson, Terry Southern, et al. By comparison I don't think he really pushes many boundaries or says anything new, although - here's the catch - his choice of wording makes it appear that he's being edgy and iconoclastic. The main fault I have with him is that he hints at being a counterculture rebel but he stops short at the risk of offending anybody. It's almost like crossing Rivers Cuomo with Bill Cosby.
posted by squeakyfromme at 2:27 PM on October 21, 2009


> Plus that Beatles review he did was hilarious.

Agreed, and the piece he did for Spin a while back about perfectly-rated bands was also good:

Van Halen: ...They also recorded the most average song in rock history: "And the Cradle Will Rock." What this means is that any song better than "And the Cradle Will Rock" is good, and any song worse than "And the Cradle Will Rock" is bad. If we were to rank every rock song (in sequential order) from best to worst, "And the Cradle Will Rock" would be right in the fucking middle.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:36 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bleargh, I always try to give Klosterman the benefit of the doubt, but inevitably he ends up annoying me by just *barely* missing the point of whatever subject he happens to be discussing and subsequently deciding that there just must not be any point to it at all then.

In this case he gets a great, pithy quote from Chris Heath about the nature of identity & celebrity in modern society which he tells us "in one paragraph, explains the rise of New Media" and then promptly pisses all over it in the next sentence by declaring that, "people answer questions because it feels stranger to do the opposite."

Hey Chuck! There's this book called Within the Context of No Context by George W.S. Trow. Maybe you should read it. And take a look at the latest from Nick Hornby while you're at it too.
posted by idontlikewords at 2:42 PM on October 21, 2009


The main fault I have with him is that he hints at being a counterculture rebel but he stops short at the risk of offending anybody.

This is very close to the core of my problem with Klosterman. But it's not that he strikes a countercultural pose - it's that he positions himself as a sort of anti-elitist everydude in many guises (even sports nut, it appears, which is new to me), but doesn't fully commit to any stance he takes.

This was my problem with Fargo Rock City, which is nevertheless as good as he gets in my estimation: he wrote a whole book about how the arena metal of his youth was more than just the lowest common denominator of '80s mass culture, a whole couple hundred pages exploring its deeper merits and defending its virtues, without ever fully embracing the idea that it even had truly defensible artistic (or countercultural or intellectual) merits and virtues. The whole book is basically: Dude, metal is seriously awesome. It's actually a really important pop art form. Here's why. Kinda. But not really. Maybe it was just the beer talkin'.

Klosterman's whole career is a hedged bet. He wants to be a junk-culture gourmand without getting fat, a big-dumb-rawk fan without being seen as silly. He's a trucker cap with a catchphrase on it so ambiguous you can never be truly certain if it's ironic or not. He's a good writer - better than 9/10ths of what passes for pop-culture journalism in the mainstream - but he's got the chops, the material and the position to be truly great if he would fully commit to his pose. But he never does. Which pisses me off.

Thus endeth the caustic attack of a clever person who would probably at least consider giving a kidney for his job.
posted by gompa at 2:45 PM on October 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


I always get the impression that Klosterman hasn't actually had any rock and roll fun ever.
posted by The Whelk at 2:46 PM on October 21, 2009


My favorite thing about Chuck Klosterman is does "devil's advocate" better than just about anyone else. So often that point of view slides into being contrarian and nothing more, but he is so incisive, asks such great rhetorical questions, and his goals are so constructive that he realizes the point of the devil's advocate excersize better than anyone else. In other words he's exactly what Slate should be.

Can't wait to read this.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 3:12 PM on October 21, 2009


The main fault I have with him is that he hints at being a counterculture rebel but he stops short at the risk of offending anybody.

This is very close to the core of my problem with Klosterman. But it's not that he strikes a countercultural pose - it's that he positions himself as a sort of anti-elitist everydude in many guises (even sports nut, it appears, which is new to me), but doesn't fully commit to any stance he takes.

This was my problem with Fargo Rock City, which is nevertheless as good as he gets in my estimation: he wrote a whole book about how the arena metal of his youth was more than just the lowest common denominator of '80s mass culture, a whole couple hundred pages exploring its deeper merits and defending its virtues, without ever fully embracing the idea that it even had truly defensible artistic (or countercultural or intellectual) merits and virtues. The whole book is basically: Dude, metal is seriously awesome. It's actually a really important pop art form. Here's why. Kinda. But not really. Maybe it was just the beer talkin'.

Klosterman's whole career is a hedged bet. He wants to be a junk-culture gourmand without getting fat, a big-dumb-rawk fan without being seen as silly. He's a trucker cap with a catchphrase on it so ambiguous you can never be truly certain if it's ironic or not. He's a good writer - better than 9/10ths of what passes for pop-culture journalism in the mainstream - but he's got the chops, the material and the position to be truly great if he would fully commit to his pose. But he never does. Which pisses me off.

Thus endeth the caustic attack of a clever person who would probably at least consider giving a kidney for his job.
posted by gompa at 2:45 PM on October 21 [+] [!]


A very, very fair criticism.

But in a way that's very much what I like about him. He's sort of this nebulous wanderer/investigator with a lack of pretense, but has a complete interest the mechanics of every sort of pop culture behavior and perspective. But he isn't really interested in saying anything. He sort of wants to engage a topic on a multi-lateral platform without having an real definitiveness about it. Which is again, what I like. He reminds me of David Foster Wallace in that regard, but he lacks Wallace's transcendent, almost mathematical-proof-like ability to get to the heart and logic of a matter and draw a conclusion. Still I feel it's part of this modern writing sensibility where unlike Lester Bangs and Hunter S. Thompson's bravado and willingness to be brash or paint in broad strokes, they have an almost uncanny desire to circle a topic in a careful, delicate, and thoughtful manner.

For me, the modern writer's willingness to commit to the pose, is actually the statement of itself. It's accused of being "post-modern" which is a nonsense sort of phrase, but still a choice that I like and respect very much. I feel as a culture we're in too much of a rush to be declaratory and much prefer this method of thoughtful reservation.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 3:26 PM on October 21, 2009


Klosterman's infamous 23 questions from Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs.
posted by waraw at 3:30 PM on October 21, 2009


I think that argument kind of breaks down when you consider that he restricts himself to the trendier side of pop culture, which by nature is superficial and largely content with being recursive/self referencing. If he doesn't say anything meaningful it's not because he has the restraint to sit back like a wizened seer and merely ask Socratic questions, it's because there really isn't any objective truth to be wrung out of the material.

Take his widely popular Beatles review. You could read it as a hilarious send up of journalistic tropes, sure. Or you could take it as having all the humor and insight of a one note SNL sketch which even Lorne Michaels would have had the good sense to dump off in the last half hour of the program when everyone is asleep. Either way I don't see it adding anything to the discussion, which is typical of his prose, and as far as whether you consider him a witty devil's advocate or a juvenile smart ass probably depends on largely on how much you value his sense of humor. I personally find it stale and whitebread - the very antithesis of the hipster mouthpiece image he tries to foster - but others may take something different from it.
posted by squeakyfromme at 3:39 PM on October 21, 2009


Klosterman doesn't like Yngwie. Yngwie is God. Klosterman is fucked (and rightfully so).
posted by MikeMc at 3:49 PM on October 21, 2009


I think that argument kind of breaks down when you consider that he restricts himself to the trendier side of pop culture, which by nature is superficial and largely content with being recursive/self referencing. If he doesn't say anything meaningful it's not because he has the restraint to sit back like a wizened seer and merely ask Socratic questions, it's because there really isn't any objective truth to be wrung out of the material.

Take his widely popular Beatles review. You could read it as a hilarious send up of journalistic tropes, sure. Or you could take it as having all the humor and insight of a one note SNL sketch which even Lorne Michaels would have had the good sense to dump off in the last half hour of the program when everyone is asleep. Either way I don't see it adding anything to the discussion, which is typical of his prose, and as far as whether you consider him a witty devil's advocate or a juvenile smart ass probably depends on largely on how much you value his sense of humor. I personally find it stale and whitebread - the very antithesis of the hipster mouthpiece image he tries to foster - but others may take something different from it.
posted by squeakyfromme at 3:39 PM on October 21 [+] [!]


A very good point.
-I was thinking less of sex, drugs, and cocoa puffs and more of his slightly more significant commentaries in Killing yourself to live and CK IV. Honestly I think his advocate nature comes out much better in his interviews and podcasts (try to find the one w/ Simmons that was just before the current crop. they're top notch). Truthfully I don't really find him that funny. Just sort of amusing. But still, rather interesting.
-Not sure if he's actually trying to foster the hipster mouthpiece image, because i'm not sure that's a title anyone would specifically want.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 3:51 PM on October 21, 2009


Well, hipster is a mostly derogatory term, so no one is going to come out and proclaim themselves as one, any more so than they would gleefully admit to being an asshole. But that doesn't change the fact that the characteristics that make up what others deem a hipster are considered desirable by a certain group of people - esoteric knowledge, balancing a cratedigger's taste in music with an ironic appreciation for mass appeal artifacts, etc. - and yes, nearly everything I've read from Klosterman fits that bill... especially that Beatles review, which simultaneously seeks to be irreverent about an unassailable topic without in any way actually criticizing it.

I don't really have anything else to add, aside from I just don't get the insight you're referring to out of his work, and I've read a fair cross section of it... mostly because I keep letting people talk me into giving him another chance! Not this time, I don't believe.
posted by squeakyfromme at 4:17 PM on October 21, 2009


I love Errol Morris, like Ira Glass (he is NOT the usual annoying voice of NPR), and like Chuck Klosterman. This is why I like Metafilter!

However, I like Klosterman a little less after reading this, in "23 Questions.":

10) This is the opening line of Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City: “You are not the kind of guy who would be in a place like this at this time of the morning.” Think about that line in the context of the novel (assuming you’ve read it). Now go to your CD collection and find Heart’s Little Queen album (assuming you own it). Listen to the opening riff to “Barracuda.” Which of these two introductions is a higher form of art?

“Barracuda” is the higher art form. No one’s ever heard of the book, but everyone knows Barracuda as soon as that riff starts. That instant recognizability makes Heart’s song a higher form of art.


Maybe it's because I like to read and I don't like to listen to boatloads of old rock and roll music. I have never even heard of Barracuda. If I've listened to Heart, it was a forgettable accident. Although Jay McInerney has had less glowing reviews since his first novel, it is pretty stupid to say "No one's heard of the book" unless you are someone who listens to music and does not read books or book reviews.

When it comes to cultural critics, I like those who read fiction and non-fiction, and also listen to music and look at art and read dance criticism etc. etc.
posted by kozad at 7:53 PM on October 21, 2009


Klosterman's whole career is a hedged bet. He wants to be a junk-culture gourmand without getting fat, a big-dumb-rawk fan without being seen as silly. He's a trucker cap with a catchphrase on it so ambiguous you can never be truly certain if it's ironic or not. He's a good writer - better than 9/10ths of what passes for pop-culture journalism in the mainstream - but he's got the chops, the material and the position to be truly great if he would fully commit to his pose. But he never does. Which pisses me off..

This holds true for his sports interest as well (which comes out in his appearances on Bill Simmons's podcast). He is very knowledgeable about sports and interested in sports figures but he doesn't have a team or see himself as a fan. This lets him play the outsider but he isn't an outsider - he knows to much about the NBA, for example, to every pretend to write about it with a fresh set of eyes but purposely too disinterested with fandom to ever write something from the point of view of the impassioned fan.
posted by thecjm at 10:46 PM on October 21, 2009


kozad:
However, I like Klosterman a little less after reading this, in "23 Questions.":

Maybe it's because I like to read and I don't like to listen to boatloads of old rock and roll music. I have never even heard of Barracuda. If I've listened to Heart, it was a forgettable accident. Although Jay McInerney has had less glowing reviews since his first novel, it is pretty stupid to say "No one's heard of the book" unless you are someone who listens to music and does not read books or book reviews.

When it comes to cultural critics, I like those who read fiction and non-fiction, and also listen to music and look at art and read dance criticism etc. etc.
"

I think the second part is the blog author's answer to Klosterman's question, not Klosterman's answer.
posted by minifigs at 3:32 AM on October 22, 2009


I have never even heard of Barracuda.

Trust me, though, you have heard it.

And it is awesome.
posted by grubi at 7:39 AM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


He's a good writer - better than 9/10ths of what passes for pop-culture journalism in the mainstream - but he's got the chops, the material and the position to be truly great if he would fully commit to his pose.

Is that what defines hipster authenticity nowadays? Committing to a pose?
posted by blucevalo at 7:57 AM on October 22, 2009


What the hell is a "cuckklosterman"?
posted by grubi at 8:36 AM on October 22, 2009


Again, I think he's too blandly offensive for anyone to out-and-out despise based on the quality of his work, if they resent him at all it's for the fact that his fame seems to be way out of proportion to his talents. So yeah, you can call out his detractors for jealousy issues or whatever but in so doing you're also advocating the elevation of minor talents while truly gifted individuals go unread. Perhaps that discussion would be better suited for Chuck's ex-employers Esquire and their "Indefensible Position" column.
posted by squeakyfromme at 11:20 AM on October 22, 2009


*INoffensive, too blandly inoffensive, I meant...
posted by squeakyfromme at 11:21 AM on October 22, 2009


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