By Sarah Farid
If you're the type of person who spends time thinking about the deeper meaning of how Steve Nash plays basketball, or the cultural significance of all-female tribute bands, then this is the book for you. In Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas, the journalist and pop-culture examiner of the same name attempts to answer our most pressing questions about American culture.
His fourth book, titled after Led Zeppelin IV, is a sort-of "greatest hits" volume. It's a collection of previously published articles as well as a short story about a movie critic. The book is organized into three sections by amount of factual accuracy.
The first section, Things That Are True, consists of profiles and trend pieces Klosterman wrote for publications including Spin, Esquire, and The New York Times Magazine. Here he attempts to demystify the psychology of Britney Spears, and realizes that "either Britney Spears is the least self-aware person I've ever met, or she's way, way savvier than I shall ever be. Or maybe both."
It's in the second section, Things That Might Be True, that Klosterman's wit and intelligence are truly displayed. Here he offers opinions and theories on everything from monogamy to robots and why America is obsessed with pirates.
He discusses a theory he calls "advancement:" when a true genius "creates a piece of art that 99 percent of the population perceives as bad. However, this perception is not because the work itself is flawed; this perception is because most consumers are not "advanced." He also discusses the Olympics and why he believes they were "designed for people who want to care about something without considering why."
The final section, Something That Isn't True At all, is an unfinished novella about a movie critic in Akron, Ohio which Klosterman wrote when he was a movie critic in Akron, Ohio. (He acknowledges that it's "not-so-loosely autobiographical.")
Klosterman's humor is often the star of his articles, even if he is writing about a major celebrity. During a phone interview with Robert Plant, former lead singer of Led Zeppelin, he asks, "On "Whole Lotta Love" you say you're going to give some girl every inch of your love. But you're British. Why don't you use the metric system?"
This is Klosterman's appeal. His fans don't necessarily care about what the artists have to say. They just want humorous stories about odd celebrities and strange ideas about what's going on. Klosterman's main purpose seems to be to tell the world that it's okay for intelligent people to appreciate pop culture. He unabashedly says he watches The Real World and The Ashlee Simpson Show and explains why it's important to appreciate seemingly shallow culture. He believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure when it comes to art or entertainment.
Chuck Klosterman states that "culture-as a whole-cannot be wrong. Culture is just there." Now that's a dangerous idea.