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Book review: <i>Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas</i> by Chuck Klosterman

If this was a book cover, it would be its own - flashy, fun, inviting, two-dimensional and with a really wanky subtitle.


A candy-coloured photo collage over a white background – lots of pop-culture icons; cars, TVs, hamburgers, etc. It’s actually pretty cool, if a tad unimaginative, and it certainly portrays the contents better than his previous covers.

The plot

The book is divided into three sections: Things That Are True, which comprises interviews & journalism; Things That Might Be True, which is Chuck’s brand of opinion and cultural comment; and Things That Aren’t True, which is one short story - his first published fiction, in fact.

The good

As with all his other books, the good stuff is at the start. There are great celebrity pieces – a surprisingly incisive bit about Britney Spears (hey, if anyone could explain her, it’d be Chuck), and a great gab with Bono, another musician I could care less about, but who, here, is cleverly distilled, and yet remains almost alien. There’s a great one-by-one interview with Radiohead, who can be a prickly bunch, and a rather touching piece with Jeff Tweedy, who’s had enough problems to last two lifetimes but finds time to talk to Chuck. In his first book, Klosterman talks frankly about how celebrity writing is obvious bullshit because one simply cannot reduce a human being to a four-page puff piece, and if one could, one would need a lot more than a thirty-minute phone interview to work from. Personally, I think Chuck’s taken his own lesson to heart and it now forms the core of his true talent, which is deconstructing and analysing the layers of myth that accrete around celebrity, particularly that of musicians. He seems to manage to separate the fame from the person sufficiently to analyse the two individual entities, and the way the one affects the other, yet without trying to nail jelly to a wall, ie spotlight the real shivering nude person beneath the glamour, who is rarely what an honest reader wants to see.

The rest of this is more of the same, so I won’t rewrite my last review. It’s a good read when you’re in a bar, (as is, frequently, Chuck,) or when he’s talking about something you’re interested in, (movies, music, television, sport,) but most of it is nothing more nor less that one reasonably smart man’s opinion about some fairly inconsequential bollocks. On the other hand, some of our greatest artistic genii took the very trivial very seriously, so maybe Chuck’s ahead of the curve after all.

The bad

I feel a bit cruel saying it, but the fiction, while far from awful, is “meh”. Nick Earls could have made something of it, but I couldn’t see what Chuck was getting at, and, a bit distressingly, he was obviously getting at something, because he mentions having honed the story over many years. He also notes in passing that the ending “asks a fairly obvious question”, but perhaps it’s more obvious when you’ve read it thirty times because I was stumped, frankly. Which could be just me. Like his opinion pieces, the prose is perfectly enjoyable but there’s not a lot of poetry or substance involved, and a considerable reliance on brand names, strived-for cachet, and minutiae. Douglas Coupland, who gives Chuck a big rap, built a career on these things, but “built” is the operative word. He’s got a decade on Chuck, though, so that’s a plus for the guy.

In short

Title: Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas
Author: Chuck Klosterman
Publisher: Scribner
ISBN: 0743284887
Year published: 2006
Pages: 384
Genre(s): Essay, Non-fiction, Short stories

This review was written by Tom Vaughan. Tom has his own website, which contains many other reviews and strips and art and other fun stuff here

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