Bookshots: 'Chuck Klosterman X' by Chuck Klosterman
Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review
Chuck Klosterman X: A Highly Specific, Defiantly Incomplete History of the Early 21st Century
Who wrote it?
Chuck Klosterman (it’s right there in the title)
Plot in a box:
A highly specific, defiantly incomplete history of the early 21st century (again, this is a very useful title)
Invent a new title for this book:
Cynics Don’t Bury Cars in the Ground
Read this if you like(d):
Humorous, thoughtful essays about pop culture
Meet the book’s lead(s):
Chuck Klosterman (remember him, from the title?)
Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:
This kind of depends on who is directing the film. The End of the Tour, the film about David Foster Wallace, was recently released by James Ponsoldt. I can imagine Ponsoldt doing an adaptation of this book justice, since The End of the Tour covers a similar author. Kind of. If this were the case, Chuck Klosterman would probably be portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg and his twin Thomas Middleditch in a bizarre two-man role. But imagine an insane world where Quentin Tarantino decided to make this into a movie. I don’t know why he would ever agree to such a thing. The reasons don’t matter. But imagine if he did. Klosterman would undoubtedly be Tim Roth. But what if Tim Roth isn’t available? Well, obviously we’re dragging in Samuel L. Jackson (the “L” stands for “Listen, I told you I would never decline an acting gig, so why are you so surprised?”). I feel at this point I should mention I have no idea what Chuck Klosterman looks like.
Setting: Would you want to live there?
A more appropriate question: would you want to be interviewed by Chuck Klosterman? And the answer would be yes, mainly so I could ask him about the question Jonathan Franzen refused to answer “on the record” but revealed once the recorder had been shut off. I don’t think Klosterman would actually tell me, but that wouldn’t stop me from trying to find out, anyway.
What was your favorite sentence?
There are many. Here are the three entries I remembered to write down:
In a hundred years, we will still have a more complete, more accurate portrait of Eddie Vedder than of Mozart or John Philip Sousa or Chuck Berry, even if no one in America is still aware that a song titled “Jeremy” once existed.
If I record a sporting event, there’s no way I’m sitting through the commercials. That would be like volunteering for a DUI.
Being the best show on network TV is kind of like being the sexiest person at a Dream Theater concert.
I had never heard the name Chuck Klosterman until two months ago, when my friend Benoit Lelievre (founder of Dead End Follies) mentioned he was reading his newest collection. Correction: I still haven’t heard Chuck Klosterman’s name, because I am terrified of face-to-face interaction and only talk to Ben via Facebook messenger. In addition, he lives in Canada, and I do not. Texas might actually be the exact opposite of Canada, come to think of it. But he did at least introduce me to the man’s name in the form of text. I made a mental note to check out this guy’s writing sometime in the future, then immediately lost it. Then LitReactor asked me if I was interested in an ARC of it.
Here’s something you need to know: I have not read many essay collections. I don’t dislike them, I just never go out of my way to find them. That doesn’t mean I don’t read essays. I probably read one or two every day, just not usually collected in a book. Social media is a constant assault of essays begging for attention. Some of them win more than others. Perhaps because of this abundance of free personal nonfiction forever smacking me in the face like a gargantuan dong swinging ferociously above my head in an attempt to rouse me from slumber, I do not actively seek out these collections. Reading Chuck Klosterman’s new book made me realize what an idiot I’ve been all these years.
Sometimes I forget that nonfiction can be just as entertaining and thought-provoking as fiction. If you think any of these essays stay on one path for very long, you have obviously never driven in a car with this particular author (I, too, did not know what to initially expect).
When I realized Klosterman is primarily a sports journalist, I almost set my Kindle down and started reading something else. I find it extremely difficult to give a shit about athletes, and reading about them sounds like one of the biggest wastes of time imaginable (an even bigger waste of time might be writing about them). However, I still gave the book a chance, and you know what? These sports essays are pretty great. I know almost nothing about basketball and football, so obviously a few details were lost on me, but for the most part my lack of knowledge did not prevent me from enjoying Klosterman’s writing.
There is also quite a bit of material devoted to music, including a ten thousand word essay on KISS, which isn’t as terrible as it sounds, and is in fact quite amazing.
Klosterman has clearly been in the game for a long time, and in this collection he reprints a fair share of past interviews he’s conducted with athletes and musicians. These interviews go beyond what one might expect and I cannot recommend them enough. Klosterman knows how to dig deep and retrieve solid answers from his subjects. They are well worth the time, even the ones involving artists you may have never even heard of before.
Of course, this book isn’t only about sports and music. There’s a great essay about nostalgia, about what it really means, and maybe it isn’t as good as you think. Hell, there are even articles about zombies and Harry Potter.
I’m glad I gave this book a chance, and I’m positive you will be, too.
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