Chuck Klosterman talks George Zimmerman, sociopaths and Aaron Hernandez in Boulder
Returning to the Boulder Book Store for the first time since 2006, Chuck Klosterman was a new breed of literary animal on this visit. Now the author of two fiction novels and a new essay collection about the dark truths of self-deception, Klosterman is no longer the dismissable pop nerd who instructed Boulder audiences on how to freebase weed off of a dashboard lighter seven years earlier. Whether he's improved or sustained his relevance is up for debate, but Chuck Klosterman has definitely cemented a reputation for himself with the high-brow academics and self-hating nihilists.
Chuck Klosterman reading from his latest book, I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling With Villains (Real and Imagined)
After admitting he was surprised and intimidated by the five-dollar cover the bookstore charged for his performance, the author offered some anecdotes about why public readings of books are ridiculous -- followed by a public reading of his book. As with most Klosterman appearances, though, the real magic was in the Q&A, when his riffing on topics ranging from George Zimmerman to media microculture and the difference between sociopaths and villains reveals what a turbine of analysis this farmboy from North Dakota has churning in his head.
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But first, the reading: In 2006, Klosterman read aloud the memorable story from Killing Yourself to Live when he discovered that a small bag of shake (pot crumbs), a short straw and the hot coils of a Ford Taurus cigarette lighter can really turn around a lonely night in Wyoming. This time, the reading was about sports. Sports and conquering a preoccupation with the self.
Apparently Klosterman attended basketball camp with future Marlins pitcher Rick Helling. This is amazing primarily because Klosterman grew up Wyndmere, North Dakota, an isolated hamlet with a booming population of 450. During the course of basketball camp, the future-author grew to hate Helling, and would write about this hatred thirty years later in an Esquire column. Helling became known as an early whistleblower on steroids in baseball, and despite this heroic feat, Klosterman refuses to alter his villainous view of him. He knows it's wrong, but he does it anyway -- because that is the reality that he has chosen.
"I have come to believe that overcoming a self-focused world-view is impossible," Klosterman explained, reading from his latest book, I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling With Villains (Real and Imagined). "Life can be experienced only through an imaginary mirror that allows us to occupy the center of a story that no one is telling. I don't think the human mind is capable of getting outside of that box, and I'm not even sure if this is problematic."
Despite his distaste for readings, Klosterman delivers his material with an enthusiasm and cadence that would match any standup comic -- a performance strangely enhanced by his lispy, over-articulate voice, like a slightly warmer version of The Simpsons comic book guy. And he's just as organic and engaged moments when the questions began flying, revealing himself as less of a writer and more of the hyper guy who can't stop thinking.
Keep reading for Klosterman on the George Zimmerman verdict.