I went to see Chuck Klosterman, critic, fiction writer, essayist, and dispenser of wisdom, speak at Bookcourt in Brooklyn on Wednesday night. The event was, ostensibly, a reading from his new book, “I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined)”. He did read a pretty amusing essay from the book about someone he hated at a middle school basketball camp who went on to become a Major League pitcher, who, much to his frustration, is generally being credited with being the first Major Leaguer to stand up and say something about steroid use. But that reading was maybe ten minutes. The rest of the time (a little more than an hour) he answered questions, which he made it clear could be about anything. He also made it clear he was used to a certain ratio of werewolf to drug questions.
Then the crowd of a few hundred people crammed into a bookstore in a density that would have displeased any Fire Marshall, most of which was in front of me and seemingly taller than me, began to ask questions. It was fascinating in that people came, very clearly, to ask Chuck questions. And he answered them beautifully, giving long answers without ever veering into boring or long winded, he kept it funny, he was intelligent and sharp without ever being a bit condescending or preachy. I had the sense that to the over-educated, hipsterish, atheist Brooklyn crowd, this was an opportunity to speak to a Guru of our day to day religion: pop culture. People asked very intelligent and perceptive questions about meaningless things, about Dwight Howard, Tim Tebow, Aaron Hernandez, Bill Simmons and Kanye West. (There was a surprising amount of sports questions).
I love Klosterman’s writing and he was great at having a funny and intelligent conversation with 3oo people. But he has just as much direct knowledge as all of us about the things he talked about. It was his understanding, his perception of our shared reality that people came from miles to ask him about and hear him share. He’s a guru in a very literal sense.
Like any true guru, he confirmed my faith in him. When someone asked him about Kanye’s album he gave a long and interesting description of Kanye as someone who is doing the same thing as everyone else in his field, just doing it parallel to them. He also said that he is obsessed with “Yeezus,” and noted that he is obsessed with the album in a way he hasn’t been obsessed with an album since The Hold Steady’s 2005 sophomore masterpiece,”Separation Sunday.”
Oh, wise one. How correct you are. If there was ever an album to get obsessed with, that was it.
Here’s the most fun (although maybe not the best) song off the album. Enjoy the weekend. Don’t let the cops find it in your socks.