From the Publisher
The Onion a.v. club One of the brightest pieces of pop analysis to appear this century.
GQ Quintessential Klosterman -- sometimes exasperating but almost always engaging.
San Francisco Chronicle The reigning Kasparov of pop culture wits-matching.
The Washington Post Maddeningly smart and funny...[Klosterman's] good humor, compassion, and raw associative powers put him in the same league as Nick Hornby and Douglas Coupland, though he's a more tenacious critic than either.
The Washington Post
The proper subject of smack talk is what's cool, what's not cool and why. But if intellectuals such as Thomas Frank or David Brooks cover this same turf like electric weed-whackers, Klosterman is a lawn-tractor with flames painted on the hood. He's the maddeningly smart and funny armchair critic from North Dakota who's right 90 percent of the time -- and the other 10 percent of the time, he's just so lunatic that the funny bone preempts the thinking bone.
There's a lot more cold cereal than sex or drugs in Klosterman's nostalgic, patchy collection of pop cultural essays, which, despite sparks of brilliance, fails to cohere. Having graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1994, Klosterman (Fargo Rock City) seems never to have left that time or place behind. He is an ironically self-aware, trivia-theorizing, unreconstructed slacker: "I'm a `Gen Xer,' okay? And I buy shit marketed to `Gen Xers.' And I use air quotes when I talk.... Get over it." The essay topics speak for themselves: the Sims, The Real World, Say Anything, Pamela Anderson, Billy Joel, the Lakers/Celtics rivalry, etc. The closest Klosterman gets to the 21st century is Internet porn and the Dixie Chicks. This is a shame, because he's is a skilled prose stylist with a witty, twisted brain, a photo-perfect memory for entertainment trivia and has real chops as a memoirist. The book's best moments arrive when he eschews argumentation for personal history. In "George Will vs. Nick Hornby," a tired screed against soccer suddenly comes to life when Klosterman tells the story of how he was fired from his high school summer job as a Little League baseball coach. The mothers wanted their sons to have equal playing time; Klosterman wanted "a run-manufacturing offensive philosophy modeled after Whitey Herzog's St. Louis Cardinals." In a chapter on relationships, Klosterman semi-jokes that he only has "three and a half dates worth of material." Remove all the dated pop culture analyses, and Klosterman's book has enough material for about half a really great memoir. Agent, Daniel Greenberg. (Aug. 26) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Cultural arguments for people fascinated by the implications of their sugar-cereal dependencies. Spin magazine senior writer Klosterman (Fargo Rock City, 2001) prefers to "figure out what it means to be alive," he explains, in the context of "Pamela Anderson and The Real World and Frosted Flakes." Generally speaking, his m.o. is to explore what a "trivial" or purportedly overlooked mass-cultural element tells us about the presumably insight-hobbled greater American populace (e.g., that racial or cultural differences as exploited in popular media can be clarified via the eternal Lakers-Celtics debate). It's a strategy reminiscent of Joe Queenan's superior Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon (1998), although Klosterman's shrill advocacy of junk culture lies closer to Quentin Tarantino's. The author is certainly democratic in his obsessions, yet they all tend toward lowest common denominators: many of his long argumentative riffs, such as those regarding John Cusack's appeal, the Pamela Anderson-Tommy Lee video, the enduring celebrity cult around serial killers like J.W. Gacy, and the righteousness of Reality Bites and the Gen-X stereotype, seem dated and unprovocative. The occasional piece rises above this minor-key white noise: a sharp, affecting portrait of life on the road with a Guns 'n' Roses cover band (written for the New York Times Magazine); a provocative exploration of how the befuddling world of online porn actually serves as metaphor for the Internet's promise generally; and a genuinely cynical chapter on media realities that reads like Muckraker Lite. Klosterman's literary strength seemingly lies in an ability to salvage discussion of the genuinely trivial via anoften charming, ramshackle voice; yet elsewhere, he takes tedious, unconvincing swipes at the usual array of "elite" cultural tropes, including Seattle's Experience Music Project, punk rock, indie rock, rock journalists, Björk, "postmodern" writers like poet Robert Pinsky, Lucinda Williams, alt-country, and so forth. He seems unaware that Jim Goad, Donna Gaines, and Ian Christe have already beaten the ersatz-populism thing to death. Humorous, slick, aggressively forgettable. Agent: Daniel Greenberg/Levine Greenberg
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1:This Is Emo0:01
No woman will ever satisfy me. I know that now, and I would never try to deny it. But this is actually okay, because I will never satisfy a woman, either.
Should I be writing such thoughts? Perhaps not. Perhaps it's a bad idea. I can definitely foresee a scenario where that first paragraph could come back to haunt me, especially if I somehow became marginally famous. If I become marginally famous, I will undoubtedly be interviewed by someone in the media, and the interviewer will inevitably ask, "Fifteen years ago, you wrote that no woman could ever satisfy you. Now that you've been married for almost five years, are those words still true?" And I will have to say, "Oh, God no. Those were the words of an entirely different person -- a person whom I can't even relate to anymore. Honestly, I can't image an existence without _____. She satisfies me in ways that I never even considered. She saved my life, really."
Now, I will be lying. I won't really feel that way. But I'll certainly say those words, and I'll deliver them with the utmost sincerity, even though those sentiments will not be there. So then the interviewer will undoubtedly quote lines from this particular paragraph, thereby reminding me that I swore I would publicly deny my true feelings, and I'll chuckle and say, "Come on, Mr. Rose. That was a literary device. You know I never really believed that."
But here's the thing: I do believe that. It's the truth now, and it will be in the future. And while I'm not exactly happy about that truth, it doesn't make me sad, either. I know it's not my fault.
It's no one's fault, really. Or maybe it's everyone's fault. It should be everyone's fault, because it's everyone's problem. Well, okay...not everyone. Not boring people, and not the profoundly retarded. But whenever I meet dynamic, nonretarded Americans, I notice that they all seem to share a single unifying characteristic: the inability to experience the kind of mind-blowing, transcendent romantic relationship they perceive to be a normal part of living. And someone needs to take the fall for this. So instead of blaming no one for this (which is kind of cowardly) or blaming everyone (which is kind of meaningless), I'm going to blame John Cusack.
I once loved a girl who almost loved me, but not as much as she loved John Cusack. Under certain circumstances, this would have been fine; Cusack is relatively good-looking, he seems like a pretty cool guy (he likes the Clash and the Who, at least), and he undoubtedly has millions of bones in the bank. If Cusack and I were competing for the same woman, I could easily accept losing. However, I don't really feel like John and I were "competing" for the girl I'm referring to, inasmuch as her relationship to Cusack was confined to watching him as a two-dimensional projection, pretending to be characters who don't actually exist. Now, there was a time when I would have thought that detachment would have given me a huge advantage over Johnny C., inasmuch as my relationship with this woman included things like "talking on the phone" and "nuzzling under umbrellas" and "eating pancakes." However, I have come to realize that I perceived this competition completely backward; it was definitely an unfair battle, but not in my favor. It was unfair in Cusack's favor. I never had a chance.
It appears that countless women born between the years of 1965 and 1978 are in love with John Cusack. I cannot fathom how he isn't the number-one box-office star in America, because every straight girl I know would sell her soul to share a milkshake with that motherfucker. For upwardly mobile women in their...
What People are saying about this
From the Publisher
Gary Shteyngart author of The Russian Debutante's Handbook The funniest thing I've read in an ice age...Chuck Klosterman is a Gulliver among the cult-crit Lilliputians. America should wrap her freckled arms around Klosterman's scrawny neck and press him to her bosom. He may be the last true patriot among us.
Bob Odenkirk of Mr. Show Chuck Klosterman has the time and inclination to think through the issues that you didn't even know were issues. Laugh at him, or with him, or both...but you will laugh, dammit, you will laugh.