The Klosterman factor

It’s not hard to describe the formula behind the essay topics of Chuck Klosterman’s new book Eating the Dinosaur.

It’s not hard to describe the formula behind the essay topics of Chuck Klosterman’s new book Eating the Dinosaur.

First, take a contrarian position on some obscure—or not so obscure—piece of pop culture ephemera. (Examples: Weezer’s music is not informed by irony; the read option play in pro football is culturally significant; voyeurism is boring; etc.)

Second, relate that point to some other piece of cultural leftovers, or better yet, to multiple elements of media. This helps when trying to prove the universality of a philosophical point, even if his starting place was a scene from Terminator 2.

Lastly, add a dose of smart-ass self-referentialism to jokes that are funny without being mean and an inescapable dose of post-post-generation self-deprecation.

Klosterman isn’t kidding when he writes, in the opening of a chapter on the stupidity of canned laughter, “I’ve spent an inordinate amount of my time searching for the underrated value in ostensibly stupid things…I am open to the possibility that everything has metaphorical merit.”

And why wouldn’t he be? That sentiment has been the defining ethos of his criticism. It’s what’s made his career.

From his first book, Fargo Rock City, to Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs and his extensive work as a columnist for Esquire, his ability to successfully deconstruct stupid things has been what’s set him apart. Tell me that Citizen Kane is an important movie, and I’ll agree. Tell me that Kurt Cobain and the leader of a cult in Waco, Texas, are comparable personalities, and I’ll be damned sure to read.

Klosterman understands that his readers don’t want someone telling them just how dumb everything we watch, listen to and consume is. They want someone to elevate the meaning of that bullshit and make it seem more than just a way to fill hours before we die.

Sometimes he hits and sometimes he misses, but this most recent collection doesn’t have the same impact or novelty of Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs. Klosterman’s easy and unique writing voice—like the regular king bullshitter at the bar down the street—still makes for an enjoyable read though. In fact, it reads so quickly that sometimes his fairly sophisticated ideas blow over like so much noise.

And the thing is, unless you’re fairly immersed in pop culture or are willing to dive down some rabbit holes of ideas, this book isn’t for you. You really have to believe that this stuff matters, at least on some level.

Chuck Klosterman has written a book that’s a lot like his old books. It’s funny, compelling and earnest in its search for hidden meaning in all manner of ideas.

The topics of his discussion may be “stupid,” but the analysis Eating the Dinosaur gives most certainly is not. Unless, of course, we’re just all that stupid.