The essays are very solipsistic and self-absorbed, I'm totally conscious of that. To me, book writing is fun, and I basically just write about things that are entertaining to myself.
Another thing that interests me about the Eagles is that I hate them.
Something that interests me about Chuck “Voice of His Generation” Klosterman is that I hate him.
As befitting any celebrity of Chuck's meager stature, a backlash is already well underway -- has been for a year or two, in fact -- and should hit maximum velocity once the reviews for Klosterman's latest book* start trickling in, but here at Death May Be Your Santa Claus, the Klosterman animosity has been festering for a good long while. Because, fucking hell, I hate Chuck Klosterman.
I've never met the guy, of course, but I still hate him, because Klosterman embodies a school of writing that permeates what passes for journalism these days, wherein every article, story and sidebar is nothing more than a glorified diary entry in which the author, instead of describing the ostensible subject, writes about how the ostensible subject relates to the author and how the author personally reacted to the subject and, if the reader is lucky, what the author had for lunch that afternoon. Frequently, if the subject is a famous person, the writer will try to make the reader believe that during the course of writing his piece, the writer and his subject became close buds because the writer is just that cool. And if the subject is female, the writer will try to make the reader believe that he was this close to fucking said female subject because the writer is just that much of a stud.
In other words, nearly every article written by writers of this ilk is not about Ostensible Subject; it is about The Writer Writing About Ostensible Subject. This is also known as taking the easy way out, or phoning it in, or half-assing it, because it takes more skill, preparation and integrity to do the job correctly.
In all fairness, Klosterchuck isn't the only guy making a living with this schtick. Other notable "writers" who are more gifted at self-promotion than they are with, you know, writing, include smug assclowns like Joel Stein and A.J. Jacobs, but thankfully, no one is characterizing Stein or Jacobs as the voice of their generation (so far). Unlike Big Chuck.
It's a certainty that Chuck (and Stein, and Jacobs, and Chuck's colleague at Esquire, Scott Raab) had some English instructor somewhere tell them, "Write what you know." The problem with this platitude is that it used to be understood that the writer would then go out and learn a few things (i.e., get some actual real world life experience) so that he would then have interesting things about which to write.
This is why Klosterman and his ilk fill up innumerable lines of copy describing episodes of Saved by the Bell and/or their painfully vanilla sex lives -- when the totality of your life experiences can be summed up with "watching TV" and "going to college," the well runs dry pretty quickly. Yet these cretins have built lucrative careers chronicling their pampered, sheltered upbringings and the consequent gigantic sense of entitlement they instilled in them. God bless America.
Now, I'm not down on Klosterchuck because of his success... although, actually, I am, because in all sincerity, damn near anybody (and by "anybody," I mean "me") could do what Chuck does, but somehow, he and/or his agent has convinced quite a few folks that Chuck's bullshit observations are weighty and significant. Except if I was cashing a hefty book advance, I'd keep the self-aggrandizing digressions and general navel-gazing to a minimum and put some real fucking content into my writing, but then, my work ethic is a little sturdier than Klosterman's. Jealous? You bet your ass I am.
(Having said that, I do have to admire the fucker for managing to sucker major media concerns into paying him to crank out the dreck that he cranks out. Stick it to the man!)
Also, I'm not hating on the Big K merely because he frequently writes in the first person (I'm writing this on a fucking blog, for Pete's sake). I'm down on Chuck because when you parse any of his four -- yeah, FOUR -- memoirs, or his column in Esquire, or if you catch him speaking in his nasally, whiny voice in Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, it doesn't take very long at all before you realize Klosterman rarely, if ever, has anything meaningful or insightful, or even witty, to say. Don't believe me? Read this excerpt.
(Note to Chuck: The reason she didn't love you wasn't because you're not John Cusack; she didn't love you because, well, you're Chuck Klosterman.)
Furthermore, I'm down on Chuck because when he drops his Chronicler of Our Times/Voice of a Generation act and writes a straightforward article and can manage to not wander off into his trademark brand of tedious self-examination, he's actually pretty good. A few years ago, he wrote a story about classic rock cruises in Spin ("Ship of Dreams") that was downright touching in spots. "Irony Maidens" was another nice piece, as was this Q&A, in which he managed to make the Bravery -- or at least, their singer -- seem like decent human beings.
But those days appear to be a tiny speck in the rear-view mirror of Klosterman's career trajectory. A recent example of Chuck's vapidity is the essay he cranked out for the Criterion release of Dazed and Confused, which reads as if it was written 20 minutes before it was due while Klosterfuck was sitting on the toilet.
There are many drinking games one can play while watching Dazed and Confused: Take a swig when someone says "man," take a shot each time Wiley Wiggins touches his nose, etc. Here's a literary drinking game: Read Chuck's essay in the DVD booklet and swallow a mouthful of your favorite alcoholic beverage whenever Chuck refers to himself in the first person. If you live to see the next day, you have the constitution of a Merchant Marine, because while the subject of Chuck's essay is supposed to be Dazed and Confused, it's actually all about Chuck and how it took him a year to see the movie and how he's always stoned when he watches it and how Chuck interviewed Richard Linklater once and they talked about how cool Chuck is and blah blah blah. In other words, shut up, Klosterman.
When you read a critical assessment of a CD, movie, book, if the writer has done his or her job, at the end of the review, you will say to yourself, "I should listen to that CD" or "I should see that movie" (if it's a positive write-up). When one reads Chuck Klosterman, one doesn't think, "I really ought to see this movie." One thinks: "Gee, I sure would like to hit that fucking douche bag Chuck Klosterman in the head with a crowbar."
*Klosterman's new book is called Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas. The title by itself is offensive because 1) ironically or not, Klosterman is comparing his ouevre to that of Led Zeppelin, which would be analogous to and nonsensical as, say, Creed comparing themselves to Martin Scorsese, and 2) because Chuck Klosterman has never had an idea in his life, let alone any dangerous ones.