If Batman were real and other musings on villainy


Book-wise, Chuck Klosterman is probably best known for Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, his 2003 collection of pop culture essays, or perhaps Killing Yourself to Live, his look at the history of glam rock. More recently, he’s made waves as The Ethicist for the New York Times, a post that comes with its very own silhouette drawing.

Klosterman feels like — and I suspect probably is? — one of those writers that people either adore or really dislike. His style of nonfiction is almost manic, a word-vomit of references and opinions and free-association insights. In a way, CK is like the coked-up friend at the party (coke is what the elderly did before molly, kids), spouting hypotheses on the philosophical difference between Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, or the reason the Miami Heat sucked so hard in 2007. He’s got a theory for every topic–though takes care to note that he’s “never had an idea that a hundred other people didn’t have before me.” For me, the kind of person who daydreams curricula for a hypothetical PhD in Reality Television, the Klosterman brand of mania is perfect. But I can understand why not everyone would love it. I guess.

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Some serious people-watching

I’ve often thought that my first novelβ€”I plan to write it in my early 30s and will swiftly rise to meteoric fame and become impossibly richβ€”will be about reality television. Not because I consider the topic particularly fascinating (to others), but because it is something about which I know a great deal and a subject on which, one might say (I do), I am an unlicensed expert.

Now, if there were anyone in the world to whom I would entrust such a task, in the event that I die a tragic early death at the hands of a rare incurable disease or late-night hobo mugging, it would be Matt McDonough. But if he weren’t around (or happened to die with me at the hands of said hobo), I’d settle for Chuck Klosterman.

Generally speaking, I find that people who’ve read Klosterman tend to fall in one of three camps: (1) Love (2) Hate, or (3) “Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs was pretty good.” Klosterman, like David Foster Wallace, has the sort of unique nonfiction style that earns him both critics and fans, a style to which he is forever associated and from which he struggles to separate himself. As with DFW, some Klosterman adherents are less keen on his fiction, which began in earnest with his 2009 novel Downtown Owl. Before that, Klosterman was known primarily for the aforementioned Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, as well as Fargo Rock City, Killing Yourself to Live and columns in magazines like Spin and Esquire.

Me, I fall definitively in (1) Love. I agree that his nonfiction is both more accessible and more entertaining, and I agree that he can come across as needlessly self-important. But the topics he loves mostβ€”sports, television, music, media’s influence on societyβ€”are so generally unimportant (in the grand scheme of world issues) that I find it hard to get worked up about some perceived Klosterman pretension. I can’t begrudge the man his rather strong and overworked opinions on pop culture; I only wish someone would pay me to document my own. 

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