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In Which I Embrace My Demographic Stereotype

August 31st, 2006 · 2 Comments

I wish I could detest Chuck Klosterman. Liking him feels obvious, a kind of demographic obligation—as though I’d watched that Nissan commercial where “Gravity Rides Everything” plays in the background and realized I really want a minivan. If mad Brazillian geneticists had plugged the vital statistics about myself and my ten best friends into some trend analysis machine and sought to engineer a Kwisatz Haderach überwriter we’d all run swooning to hear read at Politics & Prose, Chuck Klosterman would’ve stepped glistening naked from the vat.

Maybe I could justify it. Klosterman does on occasion flirt with the kind of aggressive, calculated quirkiness that would’ve made Natalie Portman’s character in Garden State unbearably grating absent the compensatory effect of looking at Natalie Portman the whole while. I could probably even rationalize a sort of world-weary contempt for some of the more ham-handedly meta, preciously pomo bits of books like Killing Yourself to Live. It is, after all, borderline cloying to turn out a passage preemptively imagining just such a reaction on the reader’s part, which predicts:

You will also complain about the author’s reliance on self-indulgent, postmodern self-awareness, which will prompt the person you’re conversing with to criticize the influence of Dave Eggers on the memoir-writing genre.

But it’s no use. I just blew through most of his latest compilation of profiles and essays, Chuck Klosterman IV, and like Nietzsche listening to the opening chords of Parsifal, I found all my theoretical objections melting in the face of a brilliantly executed work. I had the rare and delicious thought, as I approached the end, that I should’ve read more slowly so there would be more left to go. Want to know why Klosterman is a buzzogenic literary darling? Because he’s fucking good. He has his quirks which, like Hunter Thompson’s, would probably turn to real flaws in the hands of a lesser writer, but he makes them work. (This is slightly worrying, since I think that, having been steeped in his essays for 48 hours, I may have let a cheap imitation Klosterman voice bleed into this post, and Thompson’s imitators are almost uniformly appalling.)

He’s good enough, at any rate, that though my intention had been to read the book analytically, to take apart the prose and see how it works, I found it hard to do: I kept getting swept up in it. Still, a couple observations. He’s got an excellent handle on the short, attention-grabbing, epigrammatic sentence, whether as a magnetic lede or an inflection point following a longer passage. And he uses his bottomless well of pop culture references like a slightly more populist version of Dennis Miller (when Dennis Miller was funny) might: He draws on them for perfectly apt metaphors that are just obscure enough that you invariably get them, but still subconsciously pat yourself on the back for having gotten them.

Also, and maybe this is wishful thinking, but he seems to be at least a libertarian sympathiser. He casually uses the adjective “socialistic” as though it’s self-evidently pejorative—which it ought to be, but that’s probably not a given at Spin. His review of Morgan Spurlock’s Super-Size Me is a no-bullshit defense of basic personal responsibility. If that’s right, Reason really ought to mortgage whatever’s necessary to raise the funds to extract a few hundred words from this guy on a semi-regular basis.

Tags: Language and Literature



2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Anonymous // Sep 1, 2006 at 5:02 am

    Linking to his works, it looks like this is one of those moments where you realize someone has stolen an idea you were mulling over. I had thought about doing a cultural analysis of heavy metal at one point, held back in part by fear it would reveal some pretty ugly things about my own love on metal. I think he goes beyond my high school teachers explanation: backlash against disco.

  • 2 Anonymous // Sep 1, 2006 at 12:54 pm

    I’ve not read Klosterman, but I dig your Frank Herbert reference. You mention demographically targeted ads that use music familiar to hipsters, have you seen the “Heart” ad, I believe it uses, if I’m not mistaken, a clip of Explosions in the Sky, First breath after a coma, which I think speaks to a certain set of younger viewers a tad more than Led Zeppelin.