Chuck Klosterman is a seemingly intelligent man with a knack for putting words together in sentences that generally make sense. His latest release, Chuck Klosterman X, is a collection of essays written over the past ten years or so for various outlets, including GQ, Esquire, and the too-soon defunct Grantland. He weaves narratives from the worlds of sports and music and often intertwines them seamlessly, writing about Gnarls Barkley (to whom an entire essay is dedicated) as easily as Charles Barkley (who is only mentioned in connection with Gnarls Barkley).
Klosterman’s thought process can be confusing, such as his examination of nostalgia and what he terms “false nostalgia” in the piece, “That’s Not How it Happened.” At the beginning of the essay, I was nodding in agreement, but by the time he asserts that the Internet has effectively destroyed nostalgia because what we consider nostalgia isn’t really nostalgia anyway—I’m lost. I’m sure he understood where he was going and how he was getting there, and many of his readers likely understood as well, but I got so hung up on hearing Ozzy Osbourne’s “Centre of Eternity” that I lost my concentration.
No doubt, Klosterman writes what he writes many times just to get a reaction. Introducing an essay from 2011, he writes, “By the time this book is released, many people will not even remember who [Tim Tebow] was or what he did, unless they really care about God or Florida or minor league baseball.” I care about God, but I am theologically at odds with Tebow’s general understanding of Him. That’s beside the point. How could anyone forget about Tim Tebow in a five-year span? Am I supposed to be insulted, or am I simply naïve about society? Or is Klosterman’s opinion of the world that far off, bringing his credibility into question? He shows his hand in the final paragraph without apology, painting himself as anti-religious by calling faith “illogical,” “a warm feeling that makes no sense.”
Is Klosterman a good writer? Absolutely. Is he entertaining? Most of the time—especially in his footnotes. He sprinkles obscenities here and there, and his sometimes not-so-subtle attempts to undermine faith are annoying. But when he sticks to sports and music without straying into politics and religion, his essays are enjoyable. His interviews with Jimmy Page of the legendary Led Zeppelin and Eddie Van Halen of one of the greatest American rock acts ever are particularly fun reads, and his epic piece on KISS (including a review of all of the band’s records, and all of the band members’ solo records) is only diminished by the profanities that litter it. Perhaps I enjoyed this particular essay a little too much, but how could I not love it when someone besides myself recognizes the first Vinnie Vincent Invasion record as a masterpiece (Klosterman rates it an A+).
Long story short (too late?), Chuck Klosterman X is a trip down memory lane, hopping from Tom Brady and the failed Deflategate interview to a eulogy for Warrant’s Jani Lane. You might be amused, you might be offended, but you will not be bored reading this book.