“He is not smart to make you feel stupid. He is smart to make you smart as well.”
-Neil Gaiman, on Gene Wolfe’s writing. He could have been talking about Chuck Klosterman.
Not only is Chuck Klosterman’s But What if We’re Wrong? fascinating, it will change the way you think. For instance, when Lindy West wrote about Leonard Nimoy’s Full Body Project helping inspire her to love her own body in Shrill, I wondered if two hundred years from now (when bodies are considered as beautiful in their diverse presentations as love songs) Nimoy would be credited with ushering full figures into vogue. Maybe his acting career will be a footnote and history will remember him as a champion of body image.
You will find yourself sizing up everything this way. No pun intended.
If you’ve visited Kloster-land before then you’re probably wondering how far up his own ass* he is this time around. This aside sums it up nicely:
“[I would love to promise that the rest of this book will not be as pedantic and grinding as the previous two paragraphs. I want to believe I won’t spend thousands of words describing why various nouns won’t evaporate into the cultural troposphere. But I can’t make that promise. It’s entirely possible that- two hundred pages from now- I will find myself describing what “food” is, and explaining that food is what we put in our mouths in order to avoid starvation, and arguing that we will always talk about food as something that exists. But take solace in the fact that you can quit at any time. I cannot.]”
To me that’s glorious. I want it understood that Klosterman makes me laugh out loud more than any writer not shelved in the humor section should, but this paragraph objectively illustrates that he is so far up his own ass that he spends the entire book practically inside-out. It also demonstrates that he knows this, and he’ll use humor (and clever footnotes and cool anecdotes and amazing diversions and celebrity guests) to show you some glittering questions about who and what will matter in the future.
He takes these questions seriously enough to walk you through different ideas step by step, but treats them lightly enough that it never feels like work. It’s like the most fascinating, confounding person you’ve ever met sat next to you at a bar, and once he started talking you kept the booze flowing because you had to see where his mind went next.
Unfortunately, you have to wait until June for Chuck Klosterman to sit next to you. But I promise when you both belly up to that “what if” bar, it will be worth the wait.