Hunting the wild Klosterman

By CAMILLE DODERO  |  October 5, 2006

In the past, people like this have been called disciples in the “cult of Klosterman.” Looking around the Boston University Bookstore, where he’s giving the first of two readings today, I can confirm that this is not an opinion or a theory but a statement of fact. At one in the afternoon on a late-September Monday, about 130 college-age kids who should probably be in class are seated with Klosterman’s books laid flat on their laps, like Bibles in church. About 50 more are relegated to the standing-room section of the foyer, where they’ll remain listening for the entire 90 minutes. One of them, PhD candidate Gillian Mason, actually canceled her office hours for this.

During the question-and-answer session, the first inquiry is one he hears all the time: do you feel famous?

“The only time I do is when I get asked that question. In terms of my daily life, no. I mean, walking around downtown Boston today, no one was stopping me. It’s not like I’m super rich. I don’t have celebrity friends. I dress the same,” which must be true considering the jean jacket.

“People here relate to you in a way that’s kind of weird,” someone else later admits. “We’re jealous. If we had your gumption, we’d take over your job.”

Klosterman’s heard that one before too. “The overwhelming majority of people who hate me — and I think even some of the people who like me — they sort of seem like, ‘I’m not sure why this person is the person that gets to do this.’ They’re like, ‘I watch Lost. I like Dylan records,’ ” he says. “If people are jealous or whatever, if somebody wants my life, they can take it over, man. I’m serious. If you want this life, you can have it. Because people are always telling you that in New York, the only way to be successful is to network: if you know the right people, or you have to have parents who send you to a really expensive school. But none of that’s true. The only people who say that are the people who aren’t going to make it. They’re trying to explain why they don’t have the life they want. I mean, I came from a farm in North Dakota, went to state school, didn’t know anyone in New York, and I sold my first book. So you can do it; it’s possible.”

In theory, this is true. In practice, I’m skeptical. Is Klosterman a real guy who just got lucky? Or is Klosterman, the first-person voice, self-invented?

Discussing Klosterman’s oeuvre is like that Le Tigre song in which Kathleen Hanna demands: “What’s your take on Cassavetes? Genius? Misogynist? Messiah? Alcoholic?” About Klosterman, rock nerds, sports readers, media gawkers, and girls like Amanda want to know: “Genius? Bullshit artist? Entertainer? Asshead?” Is there a right answer? Does it even matter?

Not a whole lotta love
If Klosterman had friends in 1999, none of this ever would have happened.

Five years earlier, the farm-raised then-twentysomething graduated from the University of North Dakota, where he was nearly fired as sports editor. After college, Klosterman considered studying communication theory at the graduate level. (“I’m not sure why, because I just wanted to stay in college probably,” he now says.) But then he landed a position covering pop culture at the daily Fargo Forum for a Generation-X-targeted section un-ironically called Rage.

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