“Chuck Klosterman X: A Highly Specific, Defiantly Incomplete History of the Early 21st Century” (Blue Rider Press), by Chuck KlostermanA fifth of the century is almost over, and Chuck Klosterman is out with a hilarious new essay collection to help us make sense of it.
The “X’’ in the title “Chuck Klosterman X” marks the 10th book by this brilliant writer, who has gathered articles published over the past decade and packaged them in a charcoal-black dust jacket with black endpapers and edges, all of which combine to produce a cool punk/goth vibe.
Most of the essays are about sports or music and include profiles remarkable for their lack of fawning of megastars such as Led Zeppelin founder Jimmy Page, rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen, Taylor Swift, Kobe Bryant and Tom Brady.Klosterman, who has written the ethics column for The New York Times Magazine and contributed to Spin, Rolling Stone, Esquire, GQ and other media outlets, also weighs in on various cultural issues, including the meaning of nostalgia, the current zombie craze and what he considers the greatest TV show ever.
Given his age (44) and the publications he’s been associated with, including ESPN.com and the now-defunct sports website Grantland, Klosterman’s interests skew Gen X and male. He has idiosyncratic taste: see the essays on Mountain Dew and Kiss.
He can also be pedantic, and on the scale of reverence to irreverence, he tilts toward the latter. But underneath that cynical shell, you’ll discover that at heart he’s a sentimentalist, as Capt. Renault so famously says about Rick in “Casablanca.”
Exhibit A is “Three-Man Weave,” an account of an all-but-forgotten basketball game between two junior college teams in North Dakota, one Native American. Amid the play-by-play and player/coach interviews, Klosterman delivers a searing indictment of this country’s treatment of native people.
Another essay, ostensibly about watching a college football game with his brother, turns into a poignant elegy for their father, who loved Notre Dame football. A third, the foreword to a coffee-table book of Peanuts comic strips, is a touching valentine to his all-time favorite fictional creation, Charlie Brown.
In the last essay, a previously unpublished work titled “Something Else,” Klosterman confesses: “My perception of reality is so inflexibly personal that it has almost no correlation to what’s happening in the world outside of my own skull.” His great gift as a writer is his ability to take the “inflexibly personal” and make it true.