Eating The Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman(4 out of 5)
Here’s the thing about Chuck Klosterman. He’s the sort of versatile writer that you can pick up any of his books and not have to read them in order. He’s the sort of astute observer that can pick an essay subject from years back- as he has done not only in this book, but others- and write a perfectly relevant essay on it now, and it still works, years later. You don’t see a lot of that in today’s literary world. Nick Hornby tries, but it seems he’s largely rooted these days in books and housework(fatherhood, etc). Klosterman is thankfully still picking out golden nuggets of pop culture and delivering well-thought out, and sometimes in a wry sarcastic fashion, soliloquies. I would, however, tell you that if you are looking into diving into the Klosterman pool, start with “Sex, Drugs, & Cocoa Puffs.” To me, still his best work. Eating the Dinosaur, as much as I enjoyed it, is missing something. There isn’t as much humor as there is insightful analysis. Do not get me wrong, I love insightful analysis as much as natural peanut butter, but like natural peanut butter, there’s only so much I can have before I need a break. If anything, this book- on my second turnaround, is better than I viewed it years ago. Years ago, when I worked for the Christian Right of the Book Hood(ie, my previous book employers), I tried reading this. Did not get it, did not enjoy it, did not fully have time to sit down and think my way through all of the essays. Thankfully, I now work for the Independent Bookstore of the Midwest that encourages its employees to read and talk to customers(nothing like selling books for once!) so I can relax and have time to absorb what I am reading. A lot of books that I read while employed previously did not sink in- likely because I was trying to read while on a conference call on my day off, and thus, not really getting it. Now what did I like, and what did I not like?
I liked It Will Shock You How Much it Never Happened: Tying in Mad Men with the direction that advertising today(not now, but circa 2009 when this came out) is taking. I would be curious how he would tie in the publicity that Jon Hamm gets for going commando into the “free publicity” that it generates for the show. Or would it have no bearing? I would also love to see what his thoughts are on advertising that NetFlix did for its original series House of Cards, as well as the resurrected Arrested Development. That’s what was ticking through my head as I was reading it.
ABBA 1, World 0. I love it, simply put, because someone bothered to explore the phenomenon that keeps on giving decades later- ABBA. AC/DC, sorry, kids, not so much. Unless you’re sitting at home watching WWE while life spins on around you, I cannot understand how “You Shook Me All Night Long” will change your life, unless you’re named Kiki and you shake your coconuts in the neighborhood Sugar Shack. ABBA do have some music that does- including the deep songs “The Winner Takes It All”, “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” “Thank You For the Music,” and “The Name of the Game.” ABBA and AC/DC in the same chapter? Only Klosterman can pull it off. And he does.
Football- because it’s football and it rules. And he knows what he’s talking about. I would like to see him take a shot at golf. And Tiger Woods. Or at Tiger Woods with a golf club. Klosterman, are you listening?
David Koresh/Kurt Cobain- That’s what it should have been called. The fact that he titled it Oh, The Guilt is even better. Tying the making of In Utero in with the Waco disaster…well, genius. I enjoyed that chapter, not only from the musical viewpoint and the reminder of how everyone dogged In Utero(which, in my opinion, is far better than Nevermind) in print and how Cobain didn’t give two shits, but seemed to exalt in it, but the reliving of Waco at that time and Koresh’s self-made cultist effigy, in direct contrast and yet also some similiarity, to Cobain, who didn’t ask for being turned into a pop-culture flannel god by the emo masses-is freaking genius. I can’t think of another soul beside Chuck Klosterman who would have drawn that line in the sand and pissed an awareness circle around it. Wonder no more. I could probably write an essay about that essay, it’s so good. Probably my favorite in the book.
Tomorrow Rarely Knows- I know this. It’s a riff on the Beatles Song Tomorrow Never Knows. Or, rather, I think it is. Since Klosterman is a music Valiant, I believe it is so. I also believe his assertion that time travel is for lazy motherfuckers who don’t want to change their situations by acting, but taking the easy way out- is right on. I also believe that we had a discussion about time travel with another deposed security guard at the bookstore months ago. I could be wrong. I know people who are living out that essay, and it makes me sad and also a little heartsick. I’m glad he takes it on and doesn’t let it go.
T is for True. Right off the bat, Spandau Ballet pops in my head. Once that’s there, we’re sunk. No, seriously, I enjoy this treatise on the lack of literalism and what it’s going to cost us in the present, and in the future. He’s right, sadly. Shit needs to change, or shit is going to get strange. Great essay, although the message makes you want to merge into a Hipster and arm wrestle Fred Armisen(for the record, I would rather arm wrestle Joan Rivers).
What I didn’t like:
Fail- failed. It didn’t do a lot for me. Perhaps not a real objective view because I hate technology.
The Best Response- isn’t the point of writing a book like this(and like his others) is to answer questions. So why ask more?
Rivers Cuomo and his love of Asian cuisine- oops, I mean women- I care not a whit. About Weezer. About Rivers. About how often he plants his stick of dynamite between chopsticks. I would rather build a village of acrobatically challenged stick people than even contemplate what K puts forth here. Also, what Rivers puts forth(shudder).
The Token Garth Brooks chapter- Please, let it, as well as that fictional character, be put out to pasture already. Preferably in a field of horny, diarrhea-stricken cows.
The Ralphs- made me ralph. Sampson and Nader. I’m waiting breathlessly for the followups on Kramden and Wiggum(ie-the role of portly larger than life figures in legendary TV shows- animated vs. sitcom). There you go, Chuck, one free of charge. I think it would be more interesting than the Ralphs in this book were.
Through A Glass, Blindly: brings out the voyeur in all of us. It just reminds me how great Hitchcock movies still are. It also reminds me that I really want to rewatch Castle 5×19(The Lives of Others) again.
Overall, good and bad, liks all essay collections. There is stuff you’re going to like, stuff that you will not dig, and stuff that you are just saddled with(why Ira Glass? Why not Philip Glass? Infinitely more interesting!). I am always glad to be stuck in a corner of my too-small couch reading anything with Chuck Klosterman’s name upon it(unless it’s Downtown Owl. Then I will pass. Just didn’t dig that one, and the fact that it’s fiction is ironic). However, it’s not an overwhelming love parade with this one. It doesn’t mean I still didn’t make a lot of notes in the margins and have lots to think about it. And the fact that I did and still am thinking about parts of the essays, hours after I finished it, says more than enough how great the book is.