I really only got to know who Chuck Klosterman was through the B.S. Report podcasts. I loved his angle on sports and pop culture so picked up this collection of essays.
Although Klosterman can write up a storm, I just skipped over pretty much every metal/hair band article in it. It's true that I don't like that sort of music (let's just put it this way, my fave band in 2009 is the Raveonettes) but I just find these characters uninteresting as well as that sort of rock culture. I shouldn't as David Lee Roth is a cartoon character as are the members of KISS but I just flipped past all those articles and went straight to the stuff on athletes or Britney.
Even though you obviously can state Britney is as musically irrelevant as metal bands are at least she's loopily entertaining as an essay subject.
I think with K-IV there is plenty for anyone to like, it's just not a solid cover-to-cover read. Now, if he came out with a book exclusively on sports or on mainstream pop culture or even obscure-o alt scene of North Dakota and Minnesota, I'd be there. I could just do without the metal and other ultra boring sounds of the '90s and '00s.
on August 11, 2008
This is nowhere near as good as sex, drugs...
It's an okay read, but I found myself skimming certain parts and skipping others.
You can read this in any order you like, it's just magazine articles.
Buy it used
on August 13, 2006
Chuck Klosterman has established himself as a fresh voice in the realm of pop culture criticism and Chuck Klosterman IV (a sly nod to classic rock albums like Led Zeppelin IV, Black Sabbath Vol. 4, etc.) is a wonderful compendium of his work in magazines like Spin, Esquire, and The Forum, among others. Beyond his in-depth research and inventive choice of subject-matter, Klosterman sticks out because he is very funny. Occasionally snide, self-aggrandizing, and acerbic, Klosterman's articles and opinion pieces are deeply thought-out and always as entertaining as the artists and cultural phenomena he examines.
Divided in three parts, the book's "Things That are True" covers a broad range of celebrity culture with an equal amount of aplomb. Klosterman marvels at how Britney Spears actually comes off as a self-invented star with an amazing ability to "act" oblivious about her role and effect on popular culture, while U2 and Bono may be the rarest example of a band that actually mean everything they say. A bizarre encounter with Val Kilmer, in which the actor states that he honestly believes he experiences more as an actor than real people do (i.e. playing a drug addict is closer to the actual experience than really being a drug addict!) leaves Klosterman with an uneasy impression.
For "The Amazing McNugget Diet," an article in The Forum, Klosterman ate nothing but Chicken McNuggets for seven days in 1996. The results? Nothing dramatic; he gains one pound and his blood pressure and cholesterol actually goes down. He calls upon this venture for 2004's "McDiculous," a critique of Morgan Spurlock's film, Super Size Me, which Klosterman argues is symptomatic of America's whining and lack of accountability. With "The Karl Marx of the Hardwood," Klosterman suggests that Canadian basketball star Steve Nash's unbelievably unselfish play makes him the sport's most prominent socialist/communist--a designation that Nash politely deflects.
One of the oddest pieces is "That 70s Cruise," which documents Klosterman's voyage on a rock and roll cruise where Styx (featuring Gowan), Journey, and REO Speedwagon are the featured attractions. It's like a classic rock subculture where time has stood still. Klosterman conducts a really interesting interview with the always outspoken Robert Plant about how Led Zeppelin had nothing to do with metal, which Plant hates. Speaking of metal, a New York Times magazine profile on Metallica and the creators of their deeply personal documentary (Some Kind of Monster) about the band's growth together after nearly coming apart reveals the dysfunctional process of making the film itself.
Radiohead surprise Klosterman by being even smarter than they seem, but the writer is not sure how he feels about Thom Yorke showing up late for the interview because he had a sudden need for a yoga session. Wisely dubbing Wilco "the mid-western Radiohead," Klosterman interviews Jeff Tweedy and completes an article about Wilco a day before Tweedy enters rehab for an addiction to painkillers. The story must be re-written and new interviews must be conducted.
Klosterman is a huge Billy Joel fan, which is the premise we're supposed to find disconcerting. Who likes Billy Joel anymore? Well, a lot of people apparently, although you wouldn't know it from Klosterman's New York Times Magazine profile, which paints Joel as a desperately lonely, burnt-out artist and subsequently angers the Joel camp.
Klosterman's examination of the phenomenon of all-female cock-rock tribute bands is truly fascinating. Interviewing members of Lez Zeppelin, AC/Dshe, and Cheap Chick, he hopes to uncover some grand political and philosophical objective. In the end, all of these women indicate that they simply wanna rock.
Even Klosterman's more conventional work for a daily newspaper in Akron is fairly skewed. Out of ideas as the paper's "pop culture reporter" who cannot infringe upon the domains of fellow writers (who cover film, music, TV, religion, media business, and politics), he interviews psychics to determine whether or not he has the makings of a professional bowler. The results are expectedly odd but the writing remains uncommonly sharp.
Complete with a searing section of opinion pieces and a bizarre short story about a woman who falls from the sky, Chuck Klosterman IV is a rare collection of work from a gifted writer, whose analysis is multi-layered and incisive. Lovers of pop culture need to pick this book up.