So, here’s the deal. I was going to try and write a cogent, well-thought out review of exactly why I disliked this book so much, but it’s not working out that way. The more I sit here trying to think of things to say, the more my blood pressure skyrockets and I get more and more retroactively angry at the book.
At first, I wanted to give this book two stars, because there are a couple of essays in here that felt valid to me, one in particular about how Klosterman thinks we’re all doomed to never really love another human being because the love we’re conditioned to want from watching movies and reading books doesn’t actually exist. If taken tongue-in-cheek, this essay is pretty funny and a little insightful. But. Then I read the rest of the book, and no matter how well-constructed it was on a technical level, and no matter how many witticisms Klosterman dispenses and how many individual sentences met my approval, the overall affect is still one of rottenness. Even that first essay read in the light of the rest of the book just shows how, and forgive me for this one, how up his own ass Chuck Klosterman is. If it’s true that Chuck Klosterman will really never love a woman the way that he wants to, it’s his own goddamn fault.
There’s a moment near the beginning of the book, in one of the interludes that separate each chapter, where he states, “I never have any idea how other people feel.” That couldn’t be more obvious. Chuck Klosterman lives in a world of Chuck Klosterman’s own making. It’s like he’s stuck permanently in his own head, and every bit of pop culture analysis he performs in the book has almost no actual insight into the human condition as most people experience it, because Klosterman is incapable of that sort of thinking. I have a feeling he’s the kind of person who, if I ever met him, I’d want to punch him in the throat within about five minutes of conversation. He’s very smart, well-spoken, funny even. But he’s also an inconsiderate, selfish, and out of touch writer. He’s the kind of guy who knocks anything he doesn’t like as unworthy.
I will admit that several of these things are personal favorites of mine, so these instances probably hit harder than they would another person, but that sort of behavior is indicative of his mindset. He not only doesn’t know what people are thinking or feeling, he doesn’t seem to care. Or, at least, he cares that they think he’s smart and funny, and he writes with a tone that elevates smart and funny at the expense of kindness and generosity and, honestly, true pop culture analysis, which isn’t just analysis filtered through the mind of an intelligent narcissist, but filtered through the mind of someone who has their own opinions, but also the ability to understand the opinions of others. I disagreed with almost every opinion in this book, and some of it was so wrong I kept wondering, has Klosterman every actually met another human being? It’s not that I mind when writers are mean and skewer other people. I have read that type of writing and found it successful in the past. The difference between those writers and Klosterman is that those writers seemed to actually be writing about a world that I recognized. Klosterman is writing about a world that only exists in his own mind.
After letting my feelings about this book sit for a couple of days, I’ve realized that I’m incapable of being unbiased in my opinions about it. Even if this book did deserve an extra star for, I don’t know, whatever. I’m not giving it. I hated this book. One star.