The Chuck Klosterman breakdown (with links!)


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On Tuesday night, Chuck Klosterman read from his new novel, ‘Downtown Owl,’ at Book Soup. He was followed by Spike Lee. The two readings did not overlap. As far as I know, Klosterman and Lee were never in the building at the same time.

Klosterman’s attire: glasses, jeans, bangs, hair, T.Rex T-shirt.


Notable imagery: behind the podium, just above Klosterman’s head, was a signed collector’s edition of Neil Leifer’s sports photographs.

Opening line: “Does anyone here have an iPhone?”

Representative quotes:

  • ‘No questions about llamas. OK. One. You can ask one question about llamas.’
  • ‘It’s not the story of my life. It’s a novel.’
  • ‘The thing about small towns is that lots of guys live there, but there’s never any new women. A woman moves up there and she gets pursued by 40 guys.’
  • ‘You have two options for the section of the book I’m going to read. A is the funny one. B is the edgier, darker one.’

‘Downtown Owl’ is Klosterman’s first novel. It winds the stories of a disparate trio of characters against the backdrop of the fictional town of Owl, N.D. It is based around two real events: the shooting of two U.S. marshals by Gordon Kahl, and an “epic blizzard” that landed during February 1984. Here’s an excerpt from ‘Downtown Owl’ on, where Klosterman also has column.

He said ‘Downtown Owl’ took 14 months to write. He said he writes his shorter pieces very quickly and uses next to no revisions. ‘It doesn’t improve,’ he said. ‘It seems to get worse.’

Klosterman has written four previous books: two collections of essays on pop culture, one about heavy metal and growing up in North Dakota and one about three of his ex-girlfriends. He’s had columns in Spin and Esquire and He reviewed ‘Chinese Democracy,’ the Guns n’ Roses album that may never really exist, as an April Fools’ joke.

Here’s a link to Mark Ames’ hypersensitive takedown of Klosterman and his book ‘Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs.’ Appearing in 2003, it began the Chuck-Klosterman-as-circular-reasoning-gas-bag theory, although the piece itself may finally serve to embarrass Ames more than Klosterman. You decide.

More representative quotes:

  • ‘What’s important in L.A. is different from what’s important in all other cities. I’ve never heard anyone talk so seriously about television in any context. People are as serious about ‘The Sopranos’ here as they are about ‘King of Queens.’ ‘
  • Of a television executive who’d called him in to work on a TV pilot: ‘He wasn’t the richest guy I’d ever met, he was richer than all the guys I would ever meet. He said, ‘I know what people like. I’m not smart, I’m not funny, I don’t read books. Give me your ideas and I’ll let you know if people are going to like them.’ I hope he’s not here. He was really nice.’
  • ‘In the future, historians will jump right from the late ‘60s to the Internet. The ‘70s and ‘80s are going to be a lost time.’
  • ‘I’m not very good at the Internet. See, I even say things like ‘at the Internet.’ ‘
  • ‘I got rid of the nest. I live with my girlfriend and she has a bed. She won’t let me live in a nest.’
  • ‘The new Metallica record is awesome. James Hetfield’s lyrics are still astonishingly idiotic.’

Afterward, while Klosterman signed autographs, I learned that his Fantasy Football team (the Pro one) is up 2–1. His QB is Drew Brees. He thinks Minnesota should have grabbed Chad Pennington when they had the chance. I could have misheard that last bit, though. I’m not sure when Minnesota ever had the chance.

Lastly, here’s a link to Sarah Hepola’s brand spanking new article about Klosterman in Salon. The piece is dated Sept. 24. What’s funny is that I just read it and it’s 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 23. Gotta love the Internet.

-- George Ducker