I Wear the Black Hat
From New York Times bestselling author, “one of America’s top cultural critics” (Entertainment Weekly), and “The Ethicist” for The New York Times Magazine, comes a new book of all original pieces on villains and villainy in popular culture.Chuck Klosterman has walked into the darkness. As a child, he rooted for conventionally good characters like wide-eyed Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. But as Klosterman aged, his alliances shifted—first to Han Solo and then to Darth Vader. Vader was a hero who consciously embraced evil; Vader wanted to be bad. But what, exactly, was that supposed to mean? When we classify someone as a bad person, what are we really saying (and why are we so obsessed with saying it)? In I Wear the Black Hat, Klosterman questions the very nature of how modern people understand the culture of villainy. What was so Machiavellian about Machiavelli? Why don’t we see Batman the same way we see Bernhard Goetz? Who’s more worthy of our vitriol—Bill Clinton or Don Henley? What was O.J. Simpson’s second-worst decision? And why is Klosterman still obsessed with some kid he knew for one week in 1985?Masterfully blending cultural analysis with self-interrogation and limitless imagination, I Wear the Black Hat delivers perceptive observations on the complexity of the anti-hero (seemingly the only kind of hero America still creates). I Wear the Black Hat is the rare example of serious criticism that’s instantly accessible and really, really funny. Klosterman is the only writer doing whatever it is he’s doing.

I Wear the Black Hat Details

TitleI Wear the Black Hat
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJul 9th, 2013
PublisherScribner
ISBN-139781439184493
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Writing, Essays, Culture, Pop Culture, Humor, Psychology, Philosophy

I Wear the Black Hat Review

  • Shawn Ritchie
    January 1, 1970
    Chuck's a lil' too far up his own asshole with this one. I've greatly enjoyed his previous non-fiction works, mostly because he hasn't tried to imbue his criticism of _pop_ ephemera with much in the way of greater meaning. It's pop culture, his books should be tasty little snacks that recall the specific period they are writing about, and that's it. THIS collection of pop culture essays, though, has a theme. A rather muddled one about the nature of villainy and how our culture views its villains Chuck's a lil' too far up his own asshole with this one. I've greatly enjoyed his previous non-fiction works, mostly because he hasn't tried to imbue his criticism of _pop_ ephemera with much in the way of greater meaning. It's pop culture, his books should be tasty little snacks that recall the specific period they are writing about, and that's it. THIS collection of pop culture essays, though, has a theme. A rather muddled one about the nature of villainy and how our culture views its villains, with a healthy dash of self-chest-thumping "I always root for the bad guy, so I must be a bad guy" weirdness sprinkled throughout.It just doesn't click on that level for me. Taken as a series of essays about various bad dudes from the last fifty years ago, it approaches a fun read. But the constant, tortured analysis of how each particular person fits into the grander theme of modern villainy ruins what little flow the book ever builds up.Particularly annoying is the end. There is no grand wrap-up of the damned theme he's shoehorned in throughout the rest of the book, just a summary of the last person's particular villainy. And the last sentence is just the absolute worst.Chuck's had a very solid track record on his career so far so a misstep was inevitable and I believe this is it. I hope he recovers and realizes that there's nothing wrong with being "just" a really outstanding pop culture essayist and decent novelist.
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  • Jordan
    January 1, 1970
    The guy never ceases to amaze me. Yeah, the book is pretty good. But before I get to that, what struck me as I was reading it was -- how in the world does he have the time to know as much as he does? Like Seinfeld, he’s a show about nothing, but really, everything. He could talk you to death (and do so intelligently) about TV, movies, books, sports, or whatever, and be completely credible. Because, he’s apparently seen and listened to all that there is to be seen or listened to, and has read eve The guy never ceases to amaze me. Yeah, the book is pretty good. But before I get to that, what struck me as I was reading it was -- how in the world does he have the time to know as much as he does? Like Seinfeld, he’s a show about nothing, but really, everything. He could talk you to death (and do so intelligently) about TV, movies, books, sports, or whatever, and be completely credible. Because, he’s apparently seen and listened to all that there is to be seen or listened to, and has read everything from Machiavelli to O.J. Simpson’s quasi-confessional book. So again, how does he have the time? He’s got a job! A wife! Clearly, he’s just a superior being. I Wear the Black Hat is about villains, or maybe more specifically, villainy. It’s not so much about serial killers because they’re just subhuman. And there’s definitely no longer the obvious evil-evil types around, either --the black hat, handlebar mustache, and sadistically glinty stare can only be found in silent films, anymore. Today, a villain lives in a world of gray. He (or she) isn’t plainly evil. A villain (according to him) is a person who knows the most, but cares the least. For example, why does everyone love Batman so much, yet, if a real-life someone like Bernhard Goetz were to ‘take matters in his own hands’ at a potential time of self-defense, he isn’t beloved? Or, during his presidency, didn’t Bill Clinton cheat on his wife, Hillary? But he’s still adored --even by women. Did someone (or some people) do more harm than him? These two chapters (‘Easier Than Typing’ and ‘Arrested For Smoking’) are easily two highlights in this collection of essays, along with the Perez Hilton-the-future-being-shoved-in-our-faces-whether-we-like-it-or-not ‘Electric Funeral’ essay that hits me where it already hurts. Like always, Chuck Klosterman assaults you with pop culture references, makes some really intriguing comparisons, lays out the hypoiest of hypotheticals, backs up all his claims with a breadth of research, and does so with wit and charm to boot. He knows how to make a guy envious. The one piece of unfortunate negative criticism: He was unable to mention either Rivers Cuomo or Weezer anywhere in this book. I was so looking forward to something about them in some way from my fellow =w= fancluber. But then again, they have no business whatsoever being associated with villainy in the first place, anyway. And we both know that.
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  • Peter Derk
    January 1, 1970
    I tried to buy this in a hip Chicago bookstore, and the clerk there was telling me that they were sold out. She then proceeded to explain to me that she didn't like Chuck Klosterman and why.I couldn't help but think what a weird move this was, explaining to me why she didn't like an author rather than asking me something like "Do you want to order one? From our BOOKSTORE. Where we survive by bringing books from outside, putting them in here, and then forcing people to give us money to take the b I tried to buy this in a hip Chicago bookstore, and the clerk there was telling me that they were sold out. She then proceeded to explain to me that she didn't like Chuck Klosterman and why.I couldn't help but think what a weird move this was, explaining to me why she didn't like an author rather than asking me something like "Do you want to order one? From our BOOKSTORE. Where we survive by bringing books from outside, putting them in here, and then forcing people to give us money to take the books back outside."But anyway, her complaint was that Chuck Klosterman's book Killing Yourself to Live was not enough about the deaths of rock stars and too much about Chuck Klosterman. She used a phrase that I don't care for, "navel-gazing."Navel-gazing, to me, describes a work that is ABOUT the author, but not really about the author DOING anything. Just thinking about stuff. More importantly, uninteresting stuff. What would happen if most of us wrote a memoir at 23.I don't really see the point of a cultural writer like Klosterman if he isn't writing about himself. At least somewhat. Coming at it from HIS perspective. It's 2013. If I googled, how many opinions or cute things could I read about any pop culture topic? Holy shit, you could read about the TV series M.A.N.T.I.S. that me and 3 other people, including the stars, would remember, you could search that and read about it all goddamn day without seeing a repeated article. If you're not including a piece of yourself in pop culture, you're wasting your time!If you wrote a review of this book that summarizes what happened and provides no personal perspective, I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to take away from it.Which is the big difference. A writer acknowledges that he or she is writing because someone is going to be reading it.So in this book, Klosterman is talking about villains. Basically, what makes a person a villain as opposed to a non-villain. How will history remember someone and why.Some of the questions are truly fascinating:-Why do we all worship Muhammad Ali even though he viciously used race to turn the public opinion on Joe Frazier, the sort of thing we would never tolerate today?-How is OJ Simpson's book outlining how he would have murdered his own wife not considered a more interesting cultural object? -How did Monica Lewinsky become the villain in the Clinton scandal?-Why is Taylor Swift popular?God help me, I never thought I would say this, but one of the book's most interesting essays was about Machiavelli.Klosterman pushes a theory that the villain is the person in any situation who knows the most and cares the least. A situation, dear reader, that I am well aware of.At a workplace a group of us were talking about the inadequacy of maternity leave. How short it was, how it was difficult to manage, and so on, and we were discussing how it seems as though the main goal is to prevent employees from giving birth.I said, "Well, you know what they should do? They should just put 'hysterectomy patients preferred' right on the application. At least that way they'd be honest."A co-worker looked at me and in all seriousness said, "I don't understand how anyone has ever dated you."Which was kind of hurtful, and honestly upsetting because I felt like I was just quantifying what the policy said, granted in an outlandish and ridiculous way, but I wasn't actually SAYING that people who had functioning uteruses (uteri?) should seek employment elsewhere.What happened was that I knew the most and was therefore able to sum it up, but also came off as caring the least because I joked about the topic. I found myself the villain even though I agreed that the maternity leave was inadequate and also said something about it that was directed to highlight the ridiculousness.The Machiavelli essay is about the idea that Machiavelli may not have been in any way Machiavellian, and that history has started to uncover the idea that The Prince was satire, not a how-to book on being a dick to get ahead. Yet, Machiavelli will be remembered for being the guy who knew how to be a dick and get ahead. Even if he doesn't use that knowledge, just his ability to put himself in that frame of mind and think along those lines makes people question his goodness.It's an idea that's false, but also happens almost 100% of the time in practice.If I pose a bizarre idea, like the idea that I invented the perfect artificial heart, and in Iron-Man-like fashion a light shines through the recepient's chest, and everything is perfect except that this light is in the shape of a swastika, when I pose that idea people never say, "That WOULD be weird" or "That would be a strange world" or "I wonder what a Holocaust survivor would do when faced with a tough decision". Instead, they say, "Why do you think about this stuff?" They turn it back on whoever came up with it, ignoring the fact that I clearly recognize myself how insane that entire situation is.Frankly, I shudder to think what other people are doing in their heads all day if not thinking of strange scenarios. What are you guys thinking about in there? What you packed for lunch? What you're wearing and how you feel about it? High school?So, I guess by Chuck Klosterman's definition, I'm semi-evil.But you know what? I'm in good company with Machiavelli. We're very alike in our own little way. Granted, he wrote an all-time philosophical classic while I just made nyuck-nyucks about a grave surgical procedure. But it's definitely as close as I'm going to get.
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  • Kay
    January 1, 1970
    I am ordinarily a fan of Chuck Klosterman's but I didn't particularly care for this book. Honestly, in many ways it felt lazy. This is, I suppose, what happens when you're demanded to reproduce pretty much the exact same type of book over and over again. Often throughout the book, Klosterman jerks the reader out of the thread of whatever thought he's presenting to reveal a bit too much of his thought process. As someone whose day job it is to see rough drafts, I don't really need to see behind t I am ordinarily a fan of Chuck Klosterman's but I didn't particularly care for this book. Honestly, in many ways it felt lazy. This is, I suppose, what happens when you're demanded to reproduce pretty much the exact same type of book over and over again. Often throughout the book, Klosterman jerks the reader out of the thread of whatever thought he's presenting to reveal a bit too much of his thought process. As someone whose day job it is to see rough drafts, I don't really need to see behind this particular curtain. I think i agree with Ben that each chapter had an interesting point or thought in it, but the chapters didn't really hang together as a whole -- though his Hitler chapter was actually pretty good. (I mean, you have to write about HItler if you're going to write about villains, don't you?)I'd say skip this one. Klosterman's written better books if you're interested in his stuff.
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  • El_kiablo
    January 1, 1970
    I first encountered Chuck Klosterman's writing when I was college aged, and at the time I really enjoyed his work, because I've always liked conversational writing and his essays were similar to conversations I might be having with my media-saturated friends. A few years went by, however, and I became less interested in having those sort of abstract conversations because they often seemed like they went nowhere; there were so many exceptions to every rule and so many rules for every exception th I first encountered Chuck Klosterman's writing when I was college aged, and at the time I really enjoyed his work, because I've always liked conversational writing and his essays were similar to conversations I might be having with my media-saturated friends. A few years went by, however, and I became less interested in having those sort of abstract conversations because they often seemed like they went nowhere; there were so many exceptions to every rule and so many rules for every exception that these discussions almost always felt circular, and when people on each side of the table ended up defending the point they were arguing against at the beginning they were definitively circular. At that time of my life I ended up feeling that Klosterman was the sort of guy who would find an interesting topic but wouldn't always say anything important about it. A decade plus into my adult life I find that I rarely talk with people about imprecise ideas (like "what is evil"), and I often find Klosterman's style so amorphous that I suspect that there isn't much "there" there in most of his essays.Klosterman is up front about the fact that he is not particularly interested in people as individuals - he's interested in the traits and conflicts that those human beings represent in our cultural imagination. This is problematic in a lot of ways - for one I think it undermines a lot of his arguments, because treating specific real people as if they were literary creations designed to illustrate the Platonic ideal of a behavior gives me a sense that he doesn't understand what actual human beings are, which kind of dents his credibility as an explainer of human behavior - but the biggest issue is that it forces him to frame the discussions he wants to have in very abstract ways. After all, if you're not talking about a person but rather how a society views a person (which is necessarily abstract and conflicting, since most of society doesn't actually know that person and probably doesn't agree with all of the other people that don't know that person), and you're using them as an example of an abstract phenomenon (like "being arrogant"), then you're taking something imprecise and dissecting it to get at something amorphous. So what kind of hard conclusions is that going to offer? Not that Klosterman is interested in hard conclusions. Like any Socratic philosopher, or any jerk at a party who wants to get away with pushing people's buttons because he's "just asking questions", Klosterman is ultimately looking at dilemmas that he doesn't really want to answer, or which he thinks might not really have an answer at all, or whose various answers are simultaneously incompatible and mutually necessary. There are times when that's compelling; there are always going to be a lot of irreconcilable facts that are going to pop up as roadblocks in any serious ethical discussion. But there are other times when it just comes across as myopic, like when Klosterman argues that OJ Simpson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar are similar because they both don't go by their full Christian names (even though OJ wasn't really trying to hide what "OJ" stood for) and went to college in America's most populous state in the same decade before admitting that being unpopular because you murdered two people is a little different from being unpopular because you don't look happy when you're giving an interview to a hostile interviewer.I think the issue really comes down to Klosterman's inability to focus: most of these essays are so interspliced with tangents that are so tangential the narrative thread is easily lost. For example, his essay about who is really to blame in the Monica Lewinsky scandal is interrupted by a discussion of the movie Basic Instinct, despite the fact that Clinton's closest connection to the movie is that he might have seen it and has probably met some of it's stars at different events. I guess both the movie and the scandal are about lust, but I'm unclear how the lust of a fictional black widow-ish character directly correlates to Bill Clinton's lust, in that the femme fatale at the heart of Fatal Instinct derived her power from her sexual proclivities and Bill Clinton was always in danger of losing his power because of his sexual proclivities. (And also one of those people is real and thus very complicated, and the other is completely fictional and thus infinitely less complicated.) That divergent path really distracts from what could have been an interesting examination of how people did or did not apportion blame in that scandal.Still, that's not to say that I don't still see Klosterman's appeal. He's still a funny writer, and most of the topics he tackles are topics that I think about and want to read about. When he does make a relevant point it does intrigue me, and this book certainly has its share of relevant points. It's just that the older I get, the less interested I am in looking at other people as moving automatons whose main reason for existence is to illustrate something to me about the world and the more it seems like Klosterman is interested in nothing but that.
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  • Matthew
    January 1, 1970
    I'm a big Chuck Klosterman fan, from SPIN to many of his books on pop culture. He's started writing novels to (in my opinion) mixed success ... so I was glad when I saw that he's releasing a new book of essays. It comes out in July but I was able to get a galley copy, which I eagerly gobbled up over the Memorial Day weekend. I Wear the Black Hat is an analysis of villains - real and imagined. From Darth Vader to N.W.A. to, of course, Adolf Hitler (his essay is mostly about how he HAS to write ab I'm a big Chuck Klosterman fan, from SPIN to many of his books on pop culture. He's started writing novels to (in my opinion) mixed success ... so I was glad when I saw that he's releasing a new book of essays. It comes out in July but I was able to get a galley copy, which I eagerly gobbled up over the Memorial Day weekend. I Wear the Black Hat is an analysis of villains - real and imagined. From Darth Vader to N.W.A. to, of course, Adolf Hitler (his essay is mostly about how he HAS to write about Hitler and knows he can't do it without it becoming a disaster, which is the only part he gets wrong), Klosterman shows us why we as a culture have grown to LOVE the villain, instead of root against him. I wasn't completely convinced - and then, I thought about the recent blog post I had about my favorite shows of all time - and at least half of them feature a main character (or characters) who were seriously flawed, downright evil or just objectively, not good guys. We are fascinated by falls from grace, we root for Tony Soprano, Omar Kelly and Walter White as much as or MORE than we ever rooted for typical protagonists. The "anti-hero" is perhaps the most common role in most movies, TV shows and art these days. Klosterman also has a not particularly unique insight into the role that good looks play in our culture (after describing his own looks as "weird"), something that is no doubt true and though it is somewhat well-trodden ground, he does add his usual spin on things. I particularly liked his essay about Bill Clinton*, in which he outlines all the players in the Lewinsky scandal and notes that after all of this, Bill Clinton (who, objectively, did some really villainous things) came out not particularly damaged. In fact, his popularity among women is about 66%. (*Figuring out Chuck Klosterman's politics has long been very tough - he's clearly NOT a partisan hack, and leans both ways on certain issues. In todays world, that's worth noting whenever politics get involved.) I Wear the Black Hat is a return to form for Klosterman, and will be enjoyable for any fan of his, or even a casual fan interested in the subject matter. As Klosterman says, that's pretty much all of us.
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  • Sam Quixote
    January 1, 1970
    Chuck Klosterman looks at the character type of the villain, both in real world figures and imagined, and surmises that a villain is someone who knows the most and cares the least. It sounds like a simple idea but becomes more complex as you think about it. He uses a number of examples to highlight his point and one of the first is Niccolo Machiavelli. Machiavelli, if you know him at all, is famous for writing The Prince, a book about political theory. The Prince is controversial as it makes Mac Chuck Klosterman looks at the character type of the villain, both in real world figures and imagined, and surmises that a villain is someone who knows the most and cares the least. It sounds like a simple idea but becomes more complex as you think about it. He uses a number of examples to highlight his point and one of the first is Niccolo Machiavelli. Machiavelli, if you know him at all, is famous for writing The Prince, a book about political theory. The Prince is controversial as it makes Machiavelli appear not just incredibly cynical but evil too in the way he advocates ruthless domination for a ruler over every other form of governance. Klosterman argues, convincingly, that Machiavelli wasn’t saying that this was his preference but that this was his observation of how the real world worked having spent his career as a diplomat seeing how politics actually operated. That his book was used and influenced any number of shady characters is not his fault and yet we have his name as a term describing a backstabbing, conniving person today. Machiavelli was not Machiavellian. In this way he argues that George W Bush was not a villain (gasp!) because he didn’t know the most (that would be Dick Cheney) and he seemed to care at least a bit (unlike Cheney), whereas Joe Paterno will be remembered as a villain because he knew about Jerry Sandusky’s sick life but chose not to do anything about it, ie. caring the least. Other examples Klosterman uses to explore the nuances that go along with the way we see villains include Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers who is justly reviled by all, and DB Cooper, another plane hijacker who in 1971 pulled off the only unsolved case of air piracy ever - and yet is seen favourably, almost like a folk hero (possibly because no one was hurt in his hijacking with the likely exception of himself, seeing as he was never seen again after he leapt out of a plane at night). Klosterman makes the thoughtful observation that if a person has confidence, no matter the crime then they are the hero even if they should be the villain. He lost me at one point when discussing Batman. He wants us to imagine Batman is real and doing what he does in the comics in real life (all well and good) but then ruins his thought-experiment by comparing Batman to Bernhard Goetz, a mad, gun toting lunatic who shot several young black men in the early 80s who were going to rob him. He tries to make a connection saying that Bernhard was obsessed with squirrels and Batman with bats and both are vigilantes, but it seemed like a long shot and felt like Klosterman was going off of the movie Batman rather than comics Batman (aka the real Batman). But he does make the interesting point that “when considering the vigilante, the way we think about fiction contradicts how we think about reality” which is definitely true. Despite this hiccup, the book is a really great read for the most part as he continues his thesis by looking at Bill Clinton, Don Henley, Snidely Whiplash, and OJ Simpson and comes up with fresh, clever perspectives on all of them through the prism of his villain argument. Klosterman’s background as a music critic though never fails to come through in his books and I Wear The Black Hat is no exception. In one pointless chapter he spends several pages telling you which bands he disliked each year for 20 years from the mid 80s to the mid 00s! After reading the book I’m struggling to see how this connected to the overall villain thesis but worse, it’s easily the most boring, self-indulgent tangent in the book. However, “boring” is something that this book rarely is and reading the essays in I Wear The Black Hat is a highly enjoyable experience. Klosterman writes lucidly and articulately, especially as he is aware that he at times uses words that inhibit some of his audience’s understanding of his points (he is loquacious and eloquent at the same time, sometimes to the writer’s downfall). If you enjoy informative pop culture discussions especially one involving the dissection of what a villain is and isn’t, I Wear The Black Hat is for you. I liked it so much I tied it to the train tracks while rubbing my pencil thin moustache - BWHAHAHAHA!
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  • Benoit Lelièvre
    January 1, 1970
    My appreciation of Chuck Klosterman's writing is both sincere and self-serving: he writes about things I also care about (although I'll admit he influenced my perception of culture), he uses a language I understand very well and doesn't seem burdened by the academic obsession to be objectively right. Reading his books give me analytics superpowers, although I can't seem to sustain them without being intellectually fed. In a couple weeks, I won't be able to write reviews like this anymore.In many My appreciation of Chuck Klosterman's writing is both sincere and self-serving: he writes about things I also care about (although I'll admit he influenced my perception of culture), he uses a language I understand very well and doesn't seem burdened by the academic obsession to be objectively right. Reading his books give me analytics superpowers, although I can't seem to sustain them without being intellectually fed. In a couple weeks, I won't be able to write reviews like this anymore.In many ways, I WEAR THE BLACK HAT is the logical sequel to my favourite Chuck Klosterman essay (in Eating the Dinosaur) where he struggles with his conscience after reading The Unabomber Manifesto. This might be a pattern emerging, but it's the second collection of essays where Klosterman's pieces seem to be increasingly personal. The collections starts cold and surgical, but it gets increasingly personal and doubtful. I love this. Klosterman expresses his doubt of being a good person because he cannot make peace with his overbearing ego. It's a courageous (and maybe a little strategic) thing to say in an essay where you're trying to sell your ideas and it make other people who are self-conscious about making peace with their overbearing ego (such as myself) feel less aloneI WEAR THE BLACK HAT is another triumph by Chuck Klosterman. I wish he keeps writing essays with the same intellectual voracity for years and years, although I wish him a satisfying but limited success, so that his ideas and thought process don't get engulfed by the mutant beast of culture in the internet age. I wish him to always remain a beautiful anomaly. Does that make me a bad person to not wish him limitless fame and money?
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  • Christopher
    January 1, 1970
    "It's natural to think of one's own life as a novel (or a movie or a play), and within that narrative we are always the central character. Thoughtful people try to overcome this compulsion, but they usually fail (in fact, trying makes it worse). In a commencement speech at Kenyon College, David Foster Wallace argued that conquering the preoccupation with self is pretty much the whole objective of being alive - but if we are to believe Wallace succeeded at this goal, it must be the darkest succes "It's natural to think of one's own life as a novel (or a movie or a play), and within that narrative we are always the central character. Thoughtful people try to overcome this compulsion, but they usually fail (in fact, trying makes it worse). In a commencement speech at Kenyon College, David Foster Wallace argued that conquering the preoccupation with self is pretty much the whole objective of being alive - but if we are to believe Wallace succeeded at this goal, it must be the darkest success imaginable. I'm far less confidant than DFW. I don't think it's feasible (I think people can pretend to do it, but they can't pretend to themselves). I have slowly come to believe that overcoming this self-focused worldview is impossible, and that life can be experienced only through an imaginary mirror that allows us to occupy the center of a story no one is telling..." This paragraph proceeds to conclude in a manner propelling it to the forefront of my favorite Klosterman pieces, and I have long been a fan. It's ironic, this paragraph, in that Klosterman believes he's revealing a sensitive truth yet this token vulnerability is vastly eclipsed by the sense you've just been short-changed for the last 198 pages, that this author who is capable of such a sublime notion just wasted half your day connecting Batman to Bubba's blowjob. But Klosterman is like movie theater candy: something about the oversize box or the faintly exotic brands make him delightful even if you're more of a popcorn guy. I now possess a 1000% knowledge surplus concerning the rapper Eazy-E, but Klosterman has a way of cleaning out his closet of cultural flotsam that causes one to linger all afternoon at the ensuing yard sale.I would recommend that someone, somewhere compare Klosterman's long-running exegesis on eighties' bands to the infamous Bret Easton Ellis deconstruction of Huey Lewis and the News in American Psycho, but if it hasn't already been done the only person with the chops to do it would be Klosterman himself. Which would in fact put him in a mirror at the center of a story that he is telling.
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  • Edward Swalwell
    January 1, 1970
    This study of pop-culture villainy (and evil) is a mixed bag.A strong introduction and a conclusion that rises gradually to a sublimely satisfying end make up for a meandering middle, where the book seems to lose focus and spend an inordinate amount of time reviewing the author's musical taste and early memories of popular culture. Read as a book, I'm not sure the author ever truly makes his point (indeed, by the end I'm fairly sure he's convinced himself that he's not made his point) - but read This study of pop-culture villainy (and evil) is a mixed bag.A strong introduction and a conclusion that rises gradually to a sublimely satisfying end make up for a meandering middle, where the book seems to lose focus and spend an inordinate amount of time reviewing the author's musical taste and early memories of popular culture. Read as a book, I'm not sure the author ever truly makes his point (indeed, by the end I'm fairly sure he's convinced himself that he's not made his point) - but read as a series of independent essays, the chapters are interesting and entertaining considerations of morality and public perception, and each contains a cogent, interesting argument about why each of the subjects should or should not be respected as 'villains'. The sections on Kim Dotcom, Ronald Regan, and Hitler are definitely the highlights of the book - all of which are in the latter half, and so this is definitely a book which rewards perseverance. The writing is witty, engaging, and pleasantly informal, throughout - with many a pleasing turns-of-phrase and aside that keeps the interest, even through the books many diversions. Read as a serious debate about what could be a fascinating topic, the book is lacking. Read as some light, if thought provoking, trivia, the book achieves its goals and is a good, enjoyable read.
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  • Kelly
    January 1, 1970
    Okay, so...not exactly what I was expecting. Look back and you'll see I have laughed, screamed, and fallen in complete adoration over his past works, but this one is just "eh". In one of the essays Klosterman talks about how all comediennes ultimately want to be taken seriously, fulfill more roles other than the ones that made them famous and that is exactly what's happened here. Which is not to say Klosterman has ever considered himself a stand up comic, but lets be honest here, most of essays Okay, so...not exactly what I was expecting. Look back and you'll see I have laughed, screamed, and fallen in complete adoration over his past works, but this one is just "eh". In one of the essays Klosterman talks about how all comediennes ultimately want to be taken seriously, fulfill more roles other than the ones that made them famous and that is exactly what's happened here. Which is not to say Klosterman has ever considered himself a stand up comic, but lets be honest here, most of essays were easier to digest thanks to his sarcastic humor and witty pop culture references. So again, it wasn't what I expected, but it is just as interesting as his past works. Just don't expect to enjoy it anymore than you would were attending a lecture from the cool, new hip teacher...informative, thought-provoking and completely devoid of related giggles.
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  • Gavin
    January 1, 1970
    Read it all in one sitting! I got this at Christmas, and you'd think I hadn't wanted to read it or something, but I just barely started the first chapter during holidays. I finally had some time lately (and no comics on my pile!) so I went back and started fresh.Klosterman has been one of my faves since I read 'Killing Yourself to Live' nearly a decade ago. Oddly, I remember not liking his SPIN columns, but that's probably because I was in High School and I like to think I was a bit smarter afte Read it all in one sitting! I got this at Christmas, and you'd think I hadn't wanted to read it or something, but I just barely started the first chapter during holidays. I finally had some time lately (and no comics on my pile!) so I went back and started fresh.Klosterman has been one of my faves since I read 'Killing Yourself to Live' nearly a decade ago. Oddly, I remember not liking his SPIN columns, but that's probably because I was in High School and I like to think I was a bit smarter after I finished University (a bit I say, not a ton).This is exactly what it says in the title: Grappling with villains. He examines what makes a modern villain, and the settings in which we see them (he's careful not to use the word context though, as that's a different thing). What follows covers everything from Batman and Charles Bronson in Death Wish, to OJ versus Kareem, Clinton and Lewinsky, Fred Durst, the Eagles, and a ton of other things.As always, the man awes me with his knowledge of pop-culture. He's almost a decade older than me, but I find I relate to him and am on a similar page most of the time. I like to think I know quite a bit about a lot of things, but wow.If you enjoyed any of his stuff in the past, then I probably don't need to convince you. If you're unfamiliar, this is a fairly quick read (less than 6 hrs) and covers a lot of ground. I would just tell you to read everything he's put out, but you have to start somewhere...I've found everything to be a page-turner, and his writing to be thought-provoking and measured.He's also the Ethicist for the NY Times, so obviously he's no slouch. I still feel he would be a blast to sit down and conversate with for hours on end. This book just re-enforced that even more.Highly Recommended.
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  • Sue Smith
    January 1, 1970
    Geez I wish Goodreads would introduce half stars - my rating would actually be 3.5 and I didn't want to appear 'villainous' or stingy and give it a three. So it's a glass half-full for me and I upped the ante to 4 stars.My perceived good deed of the day and I'm feeling alright about that! Ha!This was an interesting little book on short stories on the authors reflections on what makes a person a villain. Or, for that matter, what is the actual definition of a villain and if it is a universal defi Geez I wish Goodreads would introduce half stars - my rating would actually be 3.5 and I didn't want to appear 'villainous' or stingy and give it a three. So it's a glass half-full for me and I upped the ante to 4 stars.My perceived good deed of the day and I'm feeling alright about that! Ha!This was an interesting little book on short stories on the authors reflections on what makes a person a villain. Or, for that matter, what is the actual definition of a villain and if it is a universal definition or perception - or it's all in the eye of the beholders. The stories started strong I thought and would have loved to have another person to talk about them. But that did not happen. Regardless, it would be a fun book to discuss some of the ideas - maybe a great party idea! Invite your friends and while you imbibe, discuss what makes a villain and who the worst villain in sports or music is. Not just the usual bad boys that are attention seekers - but the truly evil spirits out there. It would be kind of interesting! Might even make you lose a few friends too. See who likes to stir the pot, so to speak.Anyways, it was a good chuckle and had some thought provoking scenarios too. Worth some fun. Might be you will find out how your friends think - or how you think - and isn't that just interesting!
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  • Josh
    January 1, 1970
    I have never read any of Klosterman's material (apart from a small article that accompanied my Dazed & Confused DVD). I just thought that I would find him a quasi-David Foster Wallace-type. However, the concept of his new book intrigued me and eventually I found myself hooked in. This book is fantastic. Klosterman brandishes his pop culture chops in a case study on what makes a villain a villain. He ranges from fictional characters to historical figures to pro athletes to celebrities. No one I have never read any of Klosterman's material (apart from a small article that accompanied my Dazed & Confused DVD). I just thought that I would find him a quasi-David Foster Wallace-type. However, the concept of his new book intrigued me and eventually I found myself hooked in. This book is fantastic. Klosterman brandishes his pop culture chops in a case study on what makes a villain a villain. He ranges from fictional characters to historical figures to pro athletes to celebrities. No one is safe under his gaze. But rather than pointing the finger, Klosterman elaborates to the point of familiarity with these people. This concept may put some off this book, but then again, that is what every good study should have. Rather than endlessly quote Foucault, Jung, Chomsky, (ad nauseam) like too many cultural theorists, Klosterman brings a fresh and original perspective. It is not about taking someone else's theory, it is about finding your own. And I liked this book for that. A pop culture junkie could find many great moments in this book like I did. And dare I say, it does allow for one to examine their own dark insights. For a short book, it sure was a great read. The only complaint I have is that the last chapter of this book was a bit unnecessary.
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  • Ellie
    January 1, 1970
    So much to love and learn in this book, Klosterman the inimitable strikes again. I think the best way to review this is to give you a few of his own words and you should trust me that the surrounding text makes these quotables even better. "If a villain is the one who knows the most and cares the least..." (p. 23)"When considering the vigilante, the way we think about fiction contradicts how we feel about reality. Which should not be unanticipated or confusing, yet somehow always is." (p. 65)And So much to love and learn in this book, Klosterman the inimitable strikes again. I think the best way to review this is to give you a few of his own words and you should trust me that the surrounding text makes these quotables even better. "If a villain is the one who knows the most and cares the least..." (p. 23)"When considering the vigilante, the way we think about fiction contradicts how we feel about reality. Which should not be unanticipated or confusing, yet somehow always is." (p. 65)And my personal favorite, and something I must adapt to a bumper sticker:"Everyone knows history is written by the winners, but that cliché misses a crucial detail: over time, the winners are always the progressives; Conservatism can only win in the short term, because society cannot stop evolving (and social evolution inevitably dovetails with the agenda of those who see change as an abstract positive.) YEAH!!!
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  • Topher
    January 1, 1970
    Pop culture reference, incoherent rambling, unchecked narcissism, pop culture reference, incoherent rambling, pop culture reference, end.
  • Gregg
    January 1, 1970
    Several years ago, I was home with the flu and stuck in front of the television, watching cable (which my wife would discontinue shortly afterwards), glued to an eight-hour marathon of "Teen Mom." Watching the girls struggle with their children wasn't the real horrifying part (although it was horrifying enough, especially when watching Farah yell at her mom about how important it was to go out with her friends and leave the kid behind for a while). What was really horrifying was watching their n Several years ago, I was home with the flu and stuck in front of the television, watching cable (which my wife would discontinue shortly afterwards), glued to an eight-hour marathon of "Teen Mom." Watching the girls struggle with their children wasn't the real horrifying part (although it was horrifying enough, especially when watching Farah yell at her mom about how important it was to go out with her friends and leave the kid behind for a while). What was really horrifying was watching their numbskull boyfriends/husbands fuck up so spectacularly, then stare at the floor and mumble while they got chewed out over their failure to do such elementary tasks as come home after work to help out with the kid, or chip in for groceries, or not blast country music while the kid was sleeping. When my wife got home that day, I stumbled upstairs from the basement where I'd been recuperating, hugged her carefully, and told her I loved her. She cocked an eyebrow at me sardonically. "What did you do?""Nothing," I assured her. "I only just realized what I could do."Maybe I was highly suggestive because of all the Ny Quil, but for an eight-hour stretch, I became/reverted/transmorgrified into a late teens/early twenties father, emotionally stunted, with responsibilities my maturity hadn't yet caught up with. For that day, I knew I was capable of anything short of putting cigarettes out on my kid's favorite toy. That's the closest I ever came to empathy with the indefensible. Chuck Klosterman, in I Wear the Black Hat, draws similar comparisons between his own behavior and the villains he profiles in this rambling, conversational thesis on the nature of villainy. He'd probably characterize my identification with the male protagonists of "Teen Mom" as akin to Kareem Abdul Jabar's inability to pretend to be anything but himself, which invites hatred. Or maybe I'm a passive/aggressive NWA, provoking a reaction in order to determine the narrative spun about me. Or maybe I'm just an asshole a la Aaron James. Klosterman discusses archetypes of villainy seemingly at random; in no other book will you see the likes of al Jabar compared with O.J. Simpson in terms of popular appeal, and I've never come across anyone drawing a line between Berhhard Goetz's subway shootings and the rooftop vigilantism of Batman. But his argument, while somewhat tediously taxonomized in places, is consistent, and wonderfully reductive: no matter the circumstances, the crime, the medium or the historical era, you can distinguish the villains as the ones who know plenty, but care little. So why do we hate them? he goes on to ask. Or why do we hate some more than others (Bill Clinton vs. Dick Nixon, say, or Perz Hilton vs. Julian Assange). How villainous are we ourselves? How do these attitudes manifest themselves in Metallica lyrics lifted from King Diamond? And so on. Klosterman is sort of my go-to guy for cultural riffs on Stuff I Should Know Better Than I Do. He assumes we know all about the Lewinsky scandal, but then goes ahead and tells us the story all over again. Ditto the Simpson trial, the Wikileaks saga and the Paterno scandal. That gets annoying. But I'm glad I had him to explain the likes of Kim Dotcom, the conflict between the novel Death Wish and its movie version, and the rivalry story behind Ice Cube, Easy E and Dr. Dre--about all that, I was clueless. And I guarantee I wouldn't have bothered to look up his sports references (being somewhat pathologically adverse to sports myself), and thus would have missed out on quite a bit. The traits we see in history's accepted villains become even more interesting and telling when set up against entire heady froth of the entertainment industry overall. Klosterman is erudite about the consequential and inconsequential alike. I've never come across a writer who can pull a line from Empire Strikes Back and turn it into an adjective (although, Chuck, baby, I think it's "nerf herder," two words, as in "one who herds nerfs") to describe his own dorkiness. He makes some perfunctory passes at some rather large premises early on in the book to drive further conclusions, the most notable of which seem to be that we're mostly not in control of the people we turn out to be (which, curiously but unsurprisingly, is a premise he leaves untouched in his discussion of Adolph Hitler). Presuppositions like these allow him to assert things like "(Andrew Dice Clay) had the wrong fans at the wrong time. He was mostly himself, but not totally. Somebody had to pay for how the world had changed." And there's another gem like this: in his discussion of why he hates the Eagles, Kloserman finally concludes that, though they are worthy of disdain, the real problem is himself. "They seem like counterculture figures who were against the values of the counterculture...They were annoying to the type of person who is susceptible to the annoying...But here's what changed, inside my skull: Those qualities no longer made me hate (Don Henley) or his band. Instead, they make me appreciate (their music) with a complexity I cannot pretend to understand. They make me realize that I cannot be trusted about anything, and that I can't even trust myself." If that's the case, how does this absolution of taste transfer to the moral realm? Klosterman discusses mass murderers, just-murderes, the depraved, the despicable and the discontent cheek and jowl with each other. Are they off the hook as well? He doesn't say. That's the omission I tripped over, though perhaps I'm not being fair. Maybe he distinguishes between artistic taste development and complete moral depravity. But such a distinction doesn't seem in character for him. I'm not always one hundred percent sure what his point is, and apparently I'm not alone--even his wedding planner made a similar observation. Klosterman himself isn't adverse to pointing out his own potential misreadings about TV shows and what not. But again--his litmus test for villains and testing of it against whatever pop cultural detritus is swimming around in his brain never fails to engage. I can't tell what his opinion of himself turned into after this investigation, but my own actually increased a smidge. More than makes up for that "Teen Mom" binge.
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  • Ben
    January 1, 1970
    How do you properly rate an uneven book of essays? Do you assign it the star rating of the high points, the value it most consistently hits or just knock off marks for the worst parts?First the bad. For a book that's 199 pages, there's some stuff in here that just doesn't work. Admittedly, some of it might be because it just doesn't culturally resonate. For example, the chapter on Andrew Dice Clay and the changing of political correctness in the country just doesn't hang together. The chapter on How do you properly rate an uneven book of essays? Do you assign it the star rating of the high points, the value it most consistently hits or just knock off marks for the worst parts?First the bad. For a book that's 199 pages, there's some stuff in here that just doesn't work. Admittedly, some of it might be because it just doesn't culturally resonate. For example, the chapter on Andrew Dice Clay and the changing of political correctness in the country just doesn't hang together. The chapter on music and the Eagles doesn't feel like it's really talking about a villain and the Batman versus Bernhard Goetz is dredging up a cultural relic that feels dated and not as interesting. A later chapter that's more a compendium of different mini-essays has some amusing high points (Fred Durst and Howard Cossel) but discussions of Alesiter Crowley and Jared Loughner feel thrown in. I also have to raise a categorical objection to a book called "I Wear the Black Hat" that doesn't even talk about Breaking Bad (though hopefully that gets added for the paperback after the show wraps up).Some essays also suffer a bit from trying to do too much. The N.W.A. chapter ends up also working in the Raiders and an unnecessary tangent about Lars Von Trier. The essay on Perez Hilton, Kim Dotcom, and Julian Assange hangs together better, but feels like there's some interesting thoughts on piracy (Dotcom) sandwiched between less interesting thoughts on Hilton and Assange. What's odd in looking back at the book is that no one essay is actually that great. But that a number have interesting or thoughtful tidbits that are worth ruminating on. The presentation of how someone can appear villainous or charismatic depending on context is a somewhat obvious observation but still makes for an interesting discussion. The discussion of Snidely Whiplash as the ultimate villain because tying women to trains is so uncaring is amusing while being too cute by half. I enjoyed his discussion of how Bill Clinton should be seen as villainous but isn't. And I'm also fairly impressed that he managed to come up with what I saw as an interesting observation about Hitler as the stand-in for pure evil given that no one ever wants to go back in time and kill Judas the man who betrayed the person that a huge chunk of the planet believes is the son of their god. The notion that we presume niceness as part of social norms but attribute badness immediately to some bigger plot. I didn't enjoy the Kareem vs. O.J. chapter as much as Kate did--the O.J. parts were kind of interesting but I didn't feel like the observations about Kareem were quite as thought out. For example, Bill Russell has a somewhat similar reputation as being prickly given that he won't sign autographs, etc. But he's beloved even without amusing cameos in Airplane or New Girl. In the end, I think Klosterman ends up doing what he does a lot--his never-ending crusade to empathize with or at least understand pretty much anything. The result makes for great contrarianism, but it also can get tiresome after awhile as it means that each essay you know he's going to slowly work together something that creates some new way of looking at a situation that is if not more sympathetic at least makes things seem more rational. I started this review thinking I would likely assign the book four stars, but wait until I finished writing about it before deciding. But the more I think about the observations inside of the stuff around them that isn't as good, I'm more inclined to give this three stars.
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  • Kelly
    January 1, 1970
    I’ve been reading Chuck Klosterman since his column in Spin magazine. I loved how he had so much to say about things I’d never even thought of before. (And I think a lot.) One of my favorite articles was about how The Darkness would never be sufficiently appreciated in the US because, in America, bands can either be good or funny (but not both). Maybe I’m not a true American, then, because I love bands that have that perfect blend of talent and humor — like The Darkness, yes, or Flight of the Co I’ve been reading Chuck Klosterman since his column in Spin magazine. I loved how he had so much to say about things I’d never even thought of before. (And I think a lot.) One of my favorite articles was about how The Darkness would never be sufficiently appreciated in the US because, in America, bands can either be good or funny (but not both). Maybe I’m not a true American, then, because I love bands that have that perfect blend of talent and humor — like The Darkness, yes, or Flight of the Conchords. I mean, how can you not love those guys? But back to Chuck. I next encountered his writing when I grabbed a copy of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, which I’ve read multiple times and which remains my favorite of his works. (My future sister-in-law borrowed my copy a few years ago and never returned it…guess it’s time to re-buy!). Klosterman can rant and rave like no other, and I love hearing what he has to say, even when I disagree.That’s how it was with I Wear the Black Hat. It’s a fascinating descent into the examination of villains and that suggests that maybe they’re not as bad as we think they are — or maybe they’re even worse. From Machiavelli to Bill Clinton to Batman, Klosterman examines the qualities, both good and bad, that the human race is willing to tolerate in others. At what point, exactly, does someone become a villain? Why?While I can see where he’s coming from in some areas, there’s this thing Klosterman does where he stands by his argument even when it starts to unravel a bit, when there’s something he wants to use as evidence that doesn’t logically support his claims. In fact, at these times he seems to hold on to his opinions even more tightly, even as they’re falling apart around him. Or maybe I just feel that way because those are the times when I disagree, so everything feels shabbier to me. Regardless, Klosterman is the guy at the bar who never shuts up, but you don’t mind. In fact, you don’t want him to. You want to hear his thoughts, both good and bad, because they make you examine yourself and your own ideas that much more closely. And for this, to him I tip my (black) hat.All in all: Thought-provoking, funny, and absolutely worth reading. Better than much of his recent stuff, in my opinion.
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  • Tung
    January 1, 1970
    Klosterman is a pop-culture journalist, and in this book, he attempts to understand how and why we (as a culture) view (or not view) people as villains. He writes about surefire villains (Hitler), about people who should be viewed as villains but are not (e.g. Bill Clinton and Muhammad Ali), and about people who are viewed as villains but should not be (e.g. Julian Assange). There was a chapter or two that I felt he forced into his villain theme, but overall there is a coherency in these essays Klosterman is a pop-culture journalist, and in this book, he attempts to understand how and why we (as a culture) view (or not view) people as villains. He writes about surefire villains (Hitler), about people who should be viewed as villains but are not (e.g. Bill Clinton and Muhammad Ali), and about people who are viewed as villains but should not be (e.g. Julian Assange). There was a chapter or two that I felt he forced into his villain theme, but overall there is a coherency in these essays that is different from his other essay collections. This is my fourth Klosterman book, and I’m beginning to feel like I’m in a dysfunctional relationship with him. On the one hand, I think Klosterman is an incredible essayist. He approaches topics by probing the underlying philosophies and principles undergirding these topics and tries to make sense of things. For example, I found the best chapter in this book to be one examining why we think of one vigilante as a hero (Batman) and another as not a hero (Bernhard Goetz). I enjoy reading his unique and nuanced take on big themes. On the other hand, there are things I still find infuriating about Klosterman’s writing. As I mentioned in a review of another Klosterman book, he tends to make subjective statements and declare them to be indisputable fact, and thinking differently is like being in college arguing trivial matters with a twenty-year-old who’s stoned. So I find myself wanting to read him and not wanting to read him at the same time. Klosterman fans will continue to enjoy his intelligence and wit and pop culture reference mastery; non-fans will continue to be irritated by his shtick. I fall right in the middle.
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  • LillyBooks
    January 1, 1970
    This book was a coup de foudre to me: I felt like I had be slammed by a wave of genius. This is the first I've ever read or even heard of Klosterman, but I will certainly be reading his other works. To say this is a collection of philosophical essays using pop cultural as a touchstone would be correct and succinct, but would also not be the whole truth. Klosterman writes paragraphs I have to read three times and then stop and think about. He states things so true and suddenly obvious, although y This book was a coup de foudre to me: I felt like I had be slammed by a wave of genius. This is the first I've ever read or even heard of Klosterman, but I will certainly be reading his other works. To say this is a collection of philosophical essays using pop cultural as a touchstone would be correct and succinct, but would also not be the whole truth. Klosterman writes paragraphs I have to read three times and then stop and think about. He states things so true and suddenly obvious, although you would have never thought that before. He also seems to know everything about, well, everything. There is no modern reference unturned here: sports, literature, celebrity bloggers, history, true crimes, movies, music, and everything in between. There's a paragraph in the preface about the context of books that will forever change the way I think about context. He's a younger, hipper, more modern version of Alain de Botton (whom I also adore). To say I have a new literary crush would be the whole truth.
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  • Molly
    January 1, 1970
    In this book, Chuck Klosterman grapples with our attitude towards villains. Why, for example, do people enjoy Batman as a fictional character even when they would consider anyone who lived like Batman in real life insane? Why are people so offended by the fact that O.J. Simpson wrote a book called If I Did It? How do TV shows like Weeds and Breaking Bad get away with depicting drug dealers as sympathetic characters? Why did Bill Clinton come away from the Monica Lewinsky scandal looking better t In this book, Chuck Klosterman grapples with our attitude towards villains. Why, for example, do people enjoy Batman as a fictional character even when they would consider anyone who lived like Batman in real life insane? Why are people so offended by the fact that O.J. Simpson wrote a book called If I Did It? How do TV shows like Weeds and Breaking Bad get away with depicting drug dealers as sympathetic characters? Why did Bill Clinton come away from the Monica Lewinsky scandal looking better than everyone else involved even though he ostensibly did the most wrong?Klosterman is one of my favorite writers, but this book is not among his best. His reflections on villainy are interesting, but less funny and insightful than we have seen him be in works such as Chuck Klosterman IV and Killing Yourself to Live. Perhaps that is because this book is both less personal and less extensively researched than his best work. I enjoyed this book on its own, but was disappointed in light of my expectations for him as a whole.
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  • Dan
    January 1, 1970
    I have a hard time rating books like this. Do I think the book to be a profound achievement? No. But it was quite entertaining, it even evoked a number of laughs-out-louds, which is an achievement for any book. Klosterman, as he often does, got me thinking about various topics and people in a way I hadn't before. So it's been a mental struggle between 3 stars and 4. Maybe the rating system itself is inherently problematic in that there is no consistency as to what each star means to me let alone I have a hard time rating books like this. Do I think the book to be a profound achievement? No. But it was quite entertaining, it even evoked a number of laughs-out-louds, which is an achievement for any book. Klosterman, as he often does, got me thinking about various topics and people in a way I hadn't before. So it's been a mental struggle between 3 stars and 4. Maybe the rating system itself is inherently problematic in that there is no consistency as to what each star means to me let alone what it means to other people. But this is an argument that I am sure has been waged before in other reviews and forums. So fuck it, this is a 4 star book of pop-nonfictional popular culture criticism; or some other less dumb arrangement of words that mean what I am really trying to say but can't.
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  • Alexis
    January 1, 1970
    What a waste of time.
  • Mariano Hortal
    January 1, 1970
    Publicado en http://lecturaylocura.com/i-wear-the-...Este es un libro que, muy probablemente, no veremos traducido a nuestro querido castellano. El artífice es el grandísimo Chuck Klosterman, escritor norteamericano y crítico musical que se caracteriza especialmente por intentar dilucidar los mecanismos que rigen ese tan difuso mundo en el que vivimos, particularmente el de la sociedad norteamericana. Quizá por este motivo, la utilización de múltiples referencias autóctonas disminuye el interés Publicado en http://lecturaylocura.com/i-wear-the-...Este es un libro que, muy probablemente, no veremos traducido a nuestro querido castellano. El artífice es el grandísimo Chuck Klosterman, escritor norteamericano y crítico musical que se caracteriza especialmente por intentar dilucidar los mecanismos que rigen ese tan difuso mundo en el que vivimos, particularmente el de la sociedad norteamericana. Quizá por este motivo, la utilización de múltiples referencias autóctonas disminuye el interés de potenciales compradores en un país como el nuestro.Una verdadera pena porque muchas de sus agudas conclusiones se pueden aplicar independientemente del país en el que te encuentres; su juicio ayuda a discernir cómo se comporta la sociedad ante ciertos eventos. Este es el caso de “I wear the black hat. Grappling with Villains”, el libro que publicó en el 2013 y que tiene la original premisa de ponerse en la piel de los que son considerados “villanos” e investigar cuáles son las causas que llevan a las personas a considerarlos de esta manera.Ya en el prefacio las intenciones están claras, partiendo del hecho de mostrarnos lo que no va a ser: construcción mediante negación; además, nos introduce a la idea de que lo que va a contar puede no gustarnos: “Here’s what this book will not be: It will not be a 200-page comparison of the Beatles to the Rolling Stones, even though I was tempted to do so in seventeen different paragraphs. It will not analyze pro wrestling or women on reality TV shows who are not there to make friends. And most notably, it will not be a repetitive argument that insists every bad person is not-so-bad and every good person is not-so-good. Rational people already understand that this is how the world is. But if you are not-so-rational –if there are certain characters you simply refuse to think about in a manner that isn’t 100 percent negative or 100 percent positive- parts of this book will (mildly) offend you. It will make you angry, and you will find yourself trying to intellectually discount arguments that you might naturally make about other people. This is what happens whenever the things we feel and the things we know refuse to align in the way we’re conditioned to pretend.”(Pequeño apunte para no angloparlantes: la cantidad de textos y densidad, unido a la falta de tiempo imposibilita mi traducción palabra a palabra. Solo pasaré por encima reflejando el sentido general)Su premisa de partida es tan simple como efectiva a la hora de definir lo que considerará un villano:“The villain is the person who knows the most but cares the least.”Con esta base es capaz de originar cada uno de los capítulos centrándose en aspectos de la villanía (normalmente centrándolos en personas concretas) y emparentándolos con sucesos de la vida cotidiana o de la sociedad; de esta manera es capa de reflexionar sobre la crítica, sobre lo que debe ser un crítico para ser considerado por el resto, ni puedes odiar todo ni puedes amarlo todo, el término medio aristotélico parece ser la solución y, sobre todo no perder esa cualidad de “ser emocionalmente frágil”:“My personality had calcified and emancipated itself from taste. I still cared about music, but now enough to feel emotionally distraught over its non-musical expansion into celebrity and society. And this was a real problem. Being emotionally fragile is an important part of being a successful critic, it’s an integral element to being engaged with mainstream art, assuming you aspire to write about in public. If you hate everything, you’re a banal asshole… but if you don’t hate anything, you’re boring. You’re useless. And you end up writing about why you can no longer generate fake feelings that other people digest as real.”En el marco televisivo indaga sobre los traficantes de drogas (drug-dealers) y cómo, aunque a priori deberían ser malvados, son pintados con frecuencia como “complicados, inteligentes y generalmente comprensivos” dándole una vuelta al sentido peyorativo que lleva asociado su nombre y la inevitable asociación a las drogas:“When consuming TV in 2013, how do you know the program you’re watching is supposed to be art? The most important indicator is the network airing it –if it’s on HBO, AMC, or FX, the program is prejudged as sophisticated (and must therefore adhere to a higher standard). But a less obvious clue involves the depiction of any characters who sell drugs. If the drug dealers are depicted positively, the show is automatically seen as “realistic” and directed toward a discriminating adult audience. Drug dealers on high end TV shows are never straight-up bad gays; they are complicated, highly intelligent, and generally sympathetic.”Sin embargo, su mayor genialidad viene en el capítulo “Easier than typing” que comienza con la siguiente hipótesis:“Let’s pretend Batman is real.I’m aware that this opening is enough to stop a certain kind of person from reading any further. It could be the opening line from an episode of Community that references a previous episode of Community. But that’s life. That’s how it goes.Let’s pretend Batman is real. Let’s assume Gotham City is the real New York, and someone is suddenly skulking the streets at night, inexplicably dressed like a winged mammal. (For the sake of argument, we’re also assuming this is happening in a universe where the pre-existing BatmanTM character has never been invented by DC Comics, so no one is presuming that this is a person impersonating Batman –this is an original Batman, within a world where he’s never been previously imagined.”En efecto, imaginemos la existencia real de Batman, el justiciero nocturno, pensemos que está actuando en nueva York, teniendo en cuenta que no ha existido el protagonista de cómic; en sucesivos y desternillantes párrafos nos damos cuenta de lo difícil que sería admitirlo en la realidad; lo bueno es que Chuck lo utiliza para llevarnos al caso real de Bernhard Goetz personaje bien conocido en Estados Unidos por haber matado a cuatro jóvenes de color porque creía que iban a robarle. El paralelismo entre las dos figuras es más que evidente; sin embargo, en la realidad Batman se considera un héroe y Goetz es un villano. Klosterman llega a la siguiente conclusión:“Because he is unreal, Batman controls de Batman Message. He lives in a finite unreality. Goetz faced (and partially created) the opposite circumstance. Every forthcoming detail about his life –even the positive ones- made his actions on the subway seem too personal. And people hate that. What people appreciate are scenarios in which someone’s individual experience becomes universal. When that transference goes the other way –when something wholly universal (like the fear of crime) comes across as highly personalized (as it did for Goetz)- the ultimate takeaway is revulsion.”Lo que convierte a Goetz en algo revulsivo, y que la gente le odie en última instancia, es la particularización de su crimen, todo lo que sea universal (el miedo al crimen) es tolerado, sin embargo cuantos más detalles conocemos que le llevaron a ese acto, más particularizado se vuelve, más reprobable, ya que la involucración es personal y no tan moral.No se acaban las genialidades con este fabuloso capítulo; en la exploración de las figuras de Assange y Kim Dotcom (creador de megaupload) tenemos otra de esas reflexiones inigualables:“This is why Assange can make an argument that openly advocates actions that (in his words? “might be inmoral”. Those actions are going to happen anyway, so he doesn’t have to pretend that they contradict the way we’ve always viewed morality. He doesn’t have to convince us he’s right, because our thoughts don’t matter. His vies of everything is like Perez Hilton’s viez of gossip or Kim Dotcom’s view of entertainment: He believes everything longs to be free. And he will make that happen, because he knows how to do it and we don’t know how to stop him. He’s already beaten everybody. It was never close.”Estos “villanos” no solo no consideran que tengan que justificar sus obras, o más bien, convencernos de que lo que hacen es correcto; sino que Dotcom cree también que “todo tiene que ser gratis y hará que suceda porque sabe cómo hacerlo y también sabe que no podemos pararle.” Exacto, la premisa inicial de Klosterman aparece de nuevo: “The villain is the person who knows the most but cares the least.” (El villano es el que más sabe de todos y el que menos se preocupa de ello.)Los análisis de Abdul Jabar o Chevy Chase como figuras “odiables” son bastante encomiables también, especialmente en el caso del humorista, famoso por sus irrefrenables polémicas con todos los compañeros/directores/actores con los que interactúa:“The fear with Chevy Chase is that every role is just another manifestation of “the Real Chevy” –that all these identical characters reflect the person he truly is, and that all his alleged arrogance is the product of believing he’s the only person smart enough to recognize how everything is a clumsy joke, including love and death and unedited emotion. That’s what he means when he says, “I’m Chevy Chase and you’re not”. It’s not something he’s happy about.I see all of Chevy’s worst qualities in myself. But none of his good ones.”Todos tenemos el miedo de que en realidad cada rol que ha efectuado Chevy Chase no es una actuación, sino que solamente reflejan la verdadera idiosincrasia del detestable personaje y encima es totalmente consciente de ello.En este ensayo el escritor norteamericano no baja el pistón sin que deja para el final al “villano” paradigmático, al reconocible por todos, al que todos necesitamos en nuestras vidas; lo habéis adivinado (bueno, también venía en el título de post), necesitamos a Hitler:“Hitler is the human catch-all for all other terrible humans. Other genocides can be viewed as sinister in concept and heartbreaking in practice, but without any pressure to understand and personify the men who made them happen. Mao and Stalin (and Hirohito and Amin and Leopold and Robespierre) are dead, both literally and figuratively. They are historic caricatures. They can disappear. But we need to keep Hitler alive. Hitler needs to be a person we hate on a one-to-one basis. He’s the worst. That’s his job.”La necesidad de mantener a Hitler vivo por nuestra propia salud es una de las mayores paradojas de la sociedad contemporánea; y es así porque Hitler tiene que ser objeto de odio. Chuck ahonda en la personalidad del dictador y nos trae a colación la famosa escena de “El hundimiento” , curiosamente una de las pocas películas que intentaba sacar alguna de sus facetas más humanas, dulcificarlo de alguna manera; si recordáis ese momento ha sido parodiado hasta el infinito siendo utilizado para crear escenas cómicas de todo tipo según el motivo buscado: el discurso de Ana Botella en el COI o el final de la serie Perdidos .Esta parodia continuada en el tiempo consigue su principal objetivo, que la posible manifestación humana del dictador sea considerada en sí una mentira, o no relevante para la mayoría de la población.Necesitamos a Hitler, porque necesitamos elementos seguros, la estabilidad que causa el tener un personaje al que puedas odiar de verdad, sin tonos de gris, nos trae estabilidad a nosotros y nos mantiene en armonía indudablemente. Esa es la función de Hitler y lo seguirá siendo por nuestro bien.
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  • Screaming Into the Void About Books
    January 1, 1970
    I love Chuck Klosterman. His essay collections on music are some of my favorite non-fiction books I've ever read. I also love villains. That's why when I heard Chuck Klosterman had written an essay collection entirely about villains I was immediately here for it. Unfortunately, it just didn't really vibe with me. I still love Klosterman's writing style. "My personality had calcified and emancipated itself from taste." This is how he describes being able to now enjoy music (or at least stop hati I love Chuck Klosterman. His essay collections on music are some of my favorite non-fiction books I've ever read. I also love villains. That's why when I heard Chuck Klosterman had written an essay collection entirely about villains I was immediately here for it. Unfortunately, it just didn't really vibe with me. I still love Klosterman's writing style. "My personality had calcified and emancipated itself from taste." This is how he describes being able to now enjoy music (or at least stop hating it) based solely around the personalities of the people performing it. Assholes can make solid music, and good people can make bad music. The way Chuck puts shit just gets me. That being said, this collection feels a little disjointed and lacking a common thread that would normally tie it all together. I can see the author was reaching for one, but it never quite landed properly for me. Also, this one's just me, but there were a lot of sports personalities addressed and I just don't watch sports. Don't care about them, and don't know who plays what in them. So those sections just tended to lose me entirely. Although I am a bit disappointed I didn't like this more, this collection did leave me with a great passage that I will also leave you all with that pretty much defines my life. "I never felt weird about being the main character in the nontransferable, nonexistent movie of my life. That's totally fine. What makes me nervous is a growing suspicion that this movie is fucked up and devoid of meaning. The auteur is a nihilist. What if I'm the main character, but still not the protagonist? What if there is no protagonist? What if there's just an uninteresting person, thinking about himself because there's nothing else to think about?" Wow. This book was really more of a two star read for me, but extra star for this passage. Bravo.~
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  • Akash Ahuja
    January 1, 1970
    This book was fascinating overall, with some things that I’ll be needlessly pick on. My main problem is the lack of overall message or theme, something that Chuck started to do and then more or less gave up on because he was having too much fun doing something else. That being said, I had a lot of fun listening to Chuck ramble about whatever random nuggets of information he happens to have on him at the time. He writes in a very fun and quirky way (reminding me of lectures with Dr. Gerber, if yo This book was fascinating overall, with some things that I’ll be needlessly pick on. My main problem is the lack of overall message or theme, something that Chuck started to do and then more or less gave up on because he was having too much fun doing something else. That being said, I had a lot of fun listening to Chuck ramble about whatever random nuggets of information he happens to have on him at the time. He writes in a very fun and quirky way (reminding me of lectures with Dr. Gerber, if you’ve had that pleasure). He brings up lots of interesting stories and very fascinating viewpoints, that all stand alone in a way that makes it feel like he was just journaling these and then one day decided that a publisher might pick it up. Long story short, this felt like a “Freakonomics” for evil people, and if you’re into ethics, definitely pick it up for a light read
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  • Andrew
    January 1, 1970
    The nature of the book intrigued me, that everyone is kind of a villain. I’ve never read any Chuck Klausterman, but glad I picked this one up. He’s a creative intellectual, art and music driven, a little manic, prone to extremes, and ultimately just someone who I felt was original...or perhaps “real.”I didn’t recognize everyone discussed by Klausterman, I’m a child of the ‘80s, so all of the ‘70s references to athletes or bands did not resonate. He also spent some time talking about athletes, an The nature of the book intrigued me, that everyone is kind of a villain. I’ve never read any Chuck Klausterman, but glad I picked this one up. He’s a creative intellectual, art and music driven, a little manic, prone to extremes, and ultimately just someone who I felt was original...or perhaps “real.”I didn’t recognize everyone discussed by Klausterman, I’m a child of the ‘80s, so all of the ‘70s references to athletes or bands did not resonate. He also spent some time talking about athletes, another genre I don’t know much about.I don’t know that I learned any groundbreaking or fundamentally different perspective, people are people, people are humans, humans are fallible, fallibility is often externally portrayed as someone being an asshole or being a villain.
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  • Jill S
    January 1, 1970
    I just love Chuck Klosterman's writing. The concept of this book - just, like, villains - is a very vague and open-ended theme, but I loved every essay in this book (except the one about Hitler).What I love about Klosterman's writing is how much he just *knows*. Sure, he clearly does a lot of research and he knows how to craft a great argument from various sources. But what pushes him over the edge for me is how he throws in little pop-culture nods to all kinds of things and people from all eras I just love Chuck Klosterman's writing. The concept of this book - just, like, villains - is a very vague and open-ended theme, but I loved every essay in this book (except the one about Hitler).What I love about Klosterman's writing is how much he just *knows*. Sure, he clearly does a lot of research and he knows how to craft a great argument from various sources. But what pushes him over the edge for me is how he throws in little pop-culture nods to all kinds of things and people from all eras. He consumes knowledge and culture unlike any other writer and presents it in such a compulsively readable way.My favourite read so far of 2019.
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  • Nate
    January 1, 1970
    The first time I ever encountered Chuck Klosterman was in this Grantland article about Tim Tebow. It was great. Undeniably so because it was maybe the only thing trying to take a rational side on the Tim Tebow argument. Really the rest of the argument was do you or do you not like Tebow? That's what it came down to. And because faith had a lot to do with it I think a lot of people missed, particularly football people, how extraordinarily odd that stretch was. How this guy who was really an awful The first time I ever encountered Chuck Klosterman was in this Grantland article about Tim Tebow. It was great. Undeniably so because it was maybe the only thing trying to take a rational side on the Tim Tebow argument. Really the rest of the argument was do you or do you not like Tebow? That's what it came down to. And because faith had a lot to do with it I think a lot of people missed, particularly football people, how extraordinarily odd that stretch was. How this guy who was really an awful quarterback in a game and age in which it's getting increasingly easier to be a quarterback was not so much successful as he was exceedingly fortunate to be allowed to play so awfully only to win games on the final drive. And this happened so many times that it came to feel inevitable. This review is not about Tebow, of course. It's about the anti-Tebows, the villains, the bad guys. But I think the Tebow article (which does not appear in this book for thematically obvious reasons) is interesting. The most important--but certainly not the only/most interesting essay in this collection--is Villains Who Are Not Villains. The third essay. The main crux is that villains often turn out to be cool, the guys we root for (The Walter Whites of the fictional world, but also the D.B. Coopers of the real). I could describe Tebow as so many things. One of them would not be "cool." Tebow is uncool and overly-sincere and way too attached to what he likes. He is, like most religiously dedicated people, a nerd. He's so unironic and unflailing in his love for Jesus Christ in the same way that, like, Neil deGrasse Tyson is so theatrically bemused and tickled by space. They're both nerds, for lack of a better word in both cases. But they're also, to a degree, only so interesting. Tyson manages to make his message almost exclusively exciting about how space is, and often brushes off or dismisses, or seems genuinely downright disinterested in the God Question. Tebow likewise never engaged (he doesn't have much of a platform anymore though I hear he's getting a pretty cushy ESPN job, which is nice) or looked to embattle himself in The God Debate. Someone once asked the man while he was in college if he was a virgin and he unapolagetically and quickly said yes to a question that's just...absurd. Given the setting: a college football press conference. He didn't go on to outline why he thought virginity was the morally superior choice, he just answered the question and let the reporters fumble around with their own awkwardness about asking it and having it answered. The world around them is more interesting than they themselves. No, the really cool people are the ones that call upon more attention. Kanye West is a villain and about a trillion times more interesting because of it. He himself is a purported believer in God but he's also so many things that Jesus/Good Christian/Religious Model isn't. Okay, true, Jesus and Kanye both had female friends that were famously whores and Kanye says I am a god and Jesus said he was the son of God. Kanye's also an asshole, he's egotistical, he's selfish and, in my own biased personal opinion he's the most egregious pseudo-intellectual alive and breathing. I think the thing Chuck likes villains is pretty simple. Villains are like people and they end up being more complex than just tying a girl to a railroad. It becomes easier to redeem villains with more perspective and context. On the other side of the coin, heroes are pretty uninteresting. A guy like Tebow--to this point--doesn't have any baggage. Except that he, presumably, is still a virgin and will be until his wedding night. Or, perhaps more accurately, Tebow's real baggage is that he is, in the grand scheme of thingsm microscopically less talented at throwing the football than about forty or fifty guys on the planet. Tim Tebow, or the caricature of Tim Tebow is really one-dimensional. Heroes and White Knights only get interesting when they falter, when they sin, when they have a dark pathos beneath. We like villains because we can elevate them to our level by making them human. Pure evil, pure villainy doesn't exist any more than pure goodness does. They're both one dimensional modifiers. But villains become interesting and far more likable because they can be redeemed even when they could care less about it. And really, that's the opposite of what an acolyte like Tebow, whose religion begs for forgiveness and is given redemption freely, really is. A Bit of A Postscript on Klosterman Himself Much of what Klosterman says in this book isn't anything more than interesting. As evidenced in Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, Chuck is almost professionally an idle pop-culture guru. He knows more or less as much about the culture as we do and he happens to arrange a lot of events next to each other and talk about how they're interesting. Despite the topics of good and evil in this book, it rarely if ever feels didactic. It's just about filling up your mind and time with thoughts. It may cause you to think more critically, more associatively, but not by a large margin. Regardless he's one of the more compelling sentence to sentence writers that I read even if I'm rather indifferent to his conclusions.
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