Klosterman columns exhibit modern philosophy

‘Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas’

By Chuck Klosterman

For all you philosophy majors wondering if yours is a dead art, meet Chuck Klosterman.

He is today’s foremost cultural philosopher and the author of four books and countless articles in magazines like Spin, Esquire and GQ. His most recent output is ‘Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas.’ Beyond a knack for ontology, Klosterman possesses a deadpan whit, powerful skepticism and an immovable resistance to all things BS.

‘IV’ is a collection of previously published articles ending with an unfinished, semi-autobiographical novella. I reviewed the CD version of the book, which is read by the author. This is both a blessing and a curse. Klosterman’s intimate understanding of each word in the book comes through in his emotional inflections, but his voice is eerily similar to Comic Book Guy’s from ‘The Simpsons.’ That can be awfully annoying, especially when Klosterman mimics CBG’s heavy-handed cynicism.

Klosterman’s book, essentially a series of cultural observations, has basically an unlimited scope. There are profiles of Britney Spears and Val Kilmer, who apparently owns buffalo. There are discussions about the meaning of junior-high basketball and whether or not McDonald’s is actually evil. The columns do span, well, a decade, so there are some outdated references – such as, ‘This fall, George W. Bush will run for the presidency against, in all likelihood, Howard Dean.’ That alone will make you chuckle, but other phrases like ‘Ronald McDonald is the purveyor of sorrow’ will have you laughing out loud.

The book makes for great pleasure reading while still maintaining a high level of intellectualism. Klosterman has a gift for seeing culture and the people that define it for what they truly are. His existentialist breakdown of cultural ‘betrayal’ is by far the best section of the book and will certainly challenge the way you think.

Most interesting are the introductions Klosterman gives to his columns. Sometimes he describes the setting and process of writing the piece. Other times he uses bizarre, hypothetical questions to introduce the reader to the main concept of the next piece. For instance, if you could take a pill that would make you smarter but would make everyone around you perceive you as dumber, would you take it? All of the questions involve a trade-off and will tell you something about your personal values.

Overall, the book is a healthy slice of wisdom under the guise of trivia. It could be summed up the way Klosterman relates overhearing that it is cheating for women to give oral sex to gay men: ‘It just seems like the kind of information people need to know.’


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