Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chuck Klosterman IV


Think of someone who is your friend (do not select your best friend, but make sure the person is someone you would classify as "considerably more then an acquaintance"). This friend is going to be attacked by a grizzly bear. Now this person will survive the attack; that is guaranteed. There is a 100 percent chance that your friend will live. However, the extent of his injuries is unknown; he might receive nothing but a few superficial scratches, but he also might lose a limb (or multiple limbs). He might recover completely in twenty-four hours with nothing but a great story, or he might spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Somehow you have the ability to stop this attack from happening. You can magically save your friend from the bear. But his (or her) salvation will come at a peculiar price: if you choose to stop the bear, it will always rain. For the rest of your life, wherever you go, it will be raining. Sometimes it will pour and sometimes it will drizzle-but it will never not be raining. But it won't rain over the totality of the earth, nor will the hydrological cycle de disrupted; these storm clouds will be isolated, and they will focus entirely on your specific where-abouts. You will also never see the sun again. 

Do you stop the bear, accepting the lifetime of rain?

This is the mind of Chuck Klosterman, pop culture writer for magazines like SPIN and Esquire. I just finished his latest collection of essays, Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas. Klosterman tackles the psychological underpinnings of celebrities (Britney Spears, U2, Val Kilmer, The White Stripes, Radiohead, Wilco), cultural phenomenon (Morrisey's Latino fan base, all-female 80s rock tribute bands), and anything else that has to do with American pop culture. He tops it all off by concluding with a bizarre semi-autobiographical short story about a film critic in Ohio. It's a little weird.

Why I love Klosterman is that he is a cultural anthropologist. He makes connections and sees the deeper truths behind musicians and celebrities. His analysis of Britney Spears is phenomenal (conclusion: she's either an insane oblivious puppet, or she's a highly self-aware genius), as is his take on the concept of dating/cheating. My only complaint is that there is simply too much to take in; the book is over 380 pages of magazine essays and articles. You have to sift through the mediocre essays in order to find the real gems. If you want an entertaining and thoughtful look at contemporary pop culture, check out Klosterman's writings.

So what would you do? Do you stop the bear?


  1. Dude, I live in the Great Northwest. It's not like I was going to get to see the sun ever again anyway.