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Meet the WritersImage of Chuck Klosterman
Chuck Klosterman
Good to Know
In our interview, Klosterman shared some fun and fascinating facts about himself:

"I think I love onion rings, but I actually don't. Very often, I will purchase onion rings and throw them in the oven, and I'll be very excited about the premise of consuming them. However, when I finally start to eat supper, I realize they're only okay. Somehow, this situation has happened to me at least five times in my lifetime: For some reason, I keep unconsciously convincing myself that onion rings are delicious."

"The original title for Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs was American Minotaur, but everybody turned against me."

*Back to Top
In the summer of 2004, Chuck Klosterman took some time to tell us about his favorite books, authors, and interests:

What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer -- and why?
This is an almost impossible question to answer; I don't think my influences are that clear (even to me). When I was in eighth grade, I was mostly influenced intellectually by television, primarily Monty Python's Flying Circus and Late Night with David Letterman. I was also deeply engaged with heavy metal, so I was playing Mötley Crüe records constantly. However, I was also inexplicably obsessed with black literature for about six months of that same school year, so I was reading Black Boy and Native Son and Black like Me and Invisible Man and all that stuff. I suppose it was the combination of all those things that influenced how I started to think about writing. I write like an absurd British talk show host who identifies with Richard Wright and Nikki Sixx.

What are your ten favorite books, and what makes them special to you?

  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand -- This is a wonderful book that expresses a philosophy I generally agree with. However, the main reason I like to list it as my favorite of all time is because it makes unambitious faux intellectuals incredibly annoyed.

  • Animal Farm by George Orwell -- I'm not sure if there has ever been a book that so accurately illustrated complex ideas with this much brevity and simplicity. I don't think there was a better 20th-century author than Orwell.

  • The Trial by Franz Kafka -- Intimidating, but also eternally insightful; there are few notions more relevant than the possibility of everyone being guilty of something, even if they don't know what that something is.

  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell -- It is virtually impossible to read this book and not think about every element of culture differently.

  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen -- I find it hilarious so many people try to seem smart by insisting this book is overrated. It's an almost perfect modern novel.

  • A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace -- This is an essay collection, so it's kind of cheating to claim that this is the best book of the 1990s. However, this is the best book of the 1990s. It's normally impossible to be both hyper-brilliant and laugh-out-loud funny simultaneously, but Wallace seems to do that effortlessly. I wish I could rip him off, but I can't; I'm just not smart enough. I'll never be smart enough. Wallace is like a literary cyborg.

  • A Season on the Brink by John Feinstein -- I read this book three times in 1989. Still the best sports journalism I've ever seen.

  • The Time Machine by H. G. Wells -- I don't know why, but I vividly remember reading this book in sixth grade (far more than anything else I read as a youth). I don't think I've ever enjoyed reading a book as much as this one.

  • Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk -- There are ideas in this novel that people will not appreciate until the current cultural era has ended.

    Where I'm Calling From by Raymond Carver -- This is where I learned how to begin and end stories.

    What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you?
    The film that changed my life (more than any other) was Slacker, because that was the first time it ever dawned on me that someone could tell stories without a chronology or a narrative. I realize that concept seems totally obvious now, but it really blew my f**king mind in 1992.

    I could probably list 1,000 other movies in this space and feel comfortable with my selections, although I'm not sure what quality makes any given film "unforgettable." I suppose it mainly has to do with the way its characters talk. As such, I think I'll list (in no particular order):

  • This Is Spinal Tap
  • Glengarry Glen Ross
  • Kicking and Screaming
  • The Godfather Part II
  • Hud
  • Rear Window
  • Run Lola Run
  • Goodfellas
  • Donnie Darko
  • Gimme Shelter
  • Pi
  • Roadhouse
  • Dazed and Confused
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • Five Easy Pieces
  • The Fog of War
  • Footloose
  • The Last Picture Show

    What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
    People always assume I probably listen to Ratt or Whitesnake when I write, but I usually don't play any music while I'm typing. I used to be able to write, read, watch TV, listen to rock music, and talk on the phone (all at the same time), but I've lost that skill as I've grown older. If I do play music while I work, it's usually Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, the Beatles, or Black Sabbath IV.

    If you had a book club, what would it be reading -- and why?
    I don't understand book clubs.

    What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
    I don't like getting books as gifts. It always creates this weird pressure: You suddenly have to read some weird novel, because you know the person who gave it to you will ask what you thought of it. I don't want any gift that dictates my behavior.

    Do you have any special writing rituals?

    What are you working on now?
    I'm working on my third book, which is a nonfiction narrative titled Killing Yourself to Live: 85 Percent of a True Story. It's about love, death, and (to a lesser degree) Rod Stewart, KISS, and Radiohead.

    Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
    Actually, I was amazingly fortunate. Publishing a book was the hardest thing I'd ever done, but it was still way easier than I expected.

    If you could choose one new writer to be "discovered," who would it be -- and why?
    No idea. I'm not even sure what that means, to be honest. I mean, have I been "discovered"? And if so, when did that happen? How come nobody told me?

    What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
    Don't believe anyone who praises you, and don't believe anyone who criticizes you. If you allow other people's opinions to affect how you view yourself, you'll never do anything.

    *Back to Top

  • About the Writer
    *Chuck Klosterman Home
    * Good to Know
    * Interview
    *Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota, 2001
    *Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, 2003
    *Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story, 2005
    *Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas, 2006
    Photo by Lisa Corson