Book Reviewed: Eating the Dinosaur, by Chuck Klosterman
I have something of a complicated relationship with Chuck Klosterman. I like to read his books because they are full of interesting, clear-eyed essays on pop culture. But I have the feeling that if I ever met Klosterman, I wouldn't like him. I disagree with him quite often, but that doesn't take away from his work. If anything, it adds an extra layer to it. I feel like we're having an actual discussion; it's as participatory as reading nonfiction gets.
I finally got around to reading Klosterman's 2009 collection, Eating the Dinosaur. I liked the book, although I'd be hard-pressed to say that any of the essays stuck out to me quite as much as other Klosterman essays I've read and liked. That being said, I think Klosterman's grown into a better writer, and he's mellowed a bit with age. His work doesn't seem quite as defensive as it sometimes felt in the past. I enjoyed the mature, steady approach these essays took.
My favorite essays in this book include "Oh, the Guilt," which compares the production of Nirvana's In Utero album with the events leading up to the Branch Davidian disaster in Waco, Texas, and "Tomorrow Rarely Knows," which is a fun piece on the ethics of time travel. "Tomorrow Rarely Knows" made me go out and rent the acclaimed indie film Primer, which Klosterman says is his favorite pop culture depiction of time travel. I look forward to watching it this weekend. I think the most interesting essay in this whole collection, though, is the final piece, "FAIL." "FAIL" is about the theories Ted Kaczynski (aka "The Unabomber") had on modernization and technology, which Klosterman is disturbed to find out he agrees with in many ways. It's hard for me to read this essay and not agree with Klosterman's arguments about all the ways the internet is making real life more difficult. As much as I love being on the internet - streaming Netflix, tweeting, and reading TV recaps all at the same time - I can't help but see all the ways this is detrimental to my intellectual and social life. I thought this was the best essay of the group because it presented unpopular but interesting ideas with strong writing. It made it worth reading all of Eating the Dinosaur.
Note: I should mention that in the essay "Tis for True," Klosterman writes a paragraph that made my opinion of this book tip decidedly in its favor. Klosterman mentions that one of his favorite TV shows is Friday Night Lights, even though he knows it's emotionally manipulating. He writes, "...Even when the on-screen action is ridiculous, it always has a physical impact on me. Friday Night Lights can make my stomach hurt, even when my mind says, 'This is silly.'" For any of you FNL fans out there, this may be the most perfect description of this show ever written.