Some malign Klosterman for trying too hard to be funny or clever. In his books, he leans on stylistic paroxysms like footnotes and odd transitions that some detractors find lazy and annoying. Another habit his attackers can’t stomach is that he positions his opinions as facts in order to drive forward theories without ever defending the original opinions. (From this month’s Esquire: “Lost is probably the best network drama in the history of television,” which is a foregone conclusion in a column ostensibly about why the mainstream still cares about reality TV.) He’s proudly anti-tastemaking (“You can never be cool enough for the cool people,” he said in Boston), which rankles Pitchfork devotees, trend whores, and hype-makers. One internet hater mused that “it’s like he’s growing a brain in public.” He enjoys arguing contrarian rock-criticism opinions, proclaiming things like Foghat are essentially the same as Yo La Tengo. He tries to represents a kind of intellectual populism — and at BU, he posited himself as just a regular thinking dude with a cool job.
Klosterman’s regular-dudeness evaporates when I get back to the office after the reading and there’s an e-mail waiting from his Scribner publicist. She hates to do this, but she has to cancel my interview with Klosterman because “he’s thoroughly and understandably exhausted, and just wants to go home after the event tonight so he can crash.”
She has got to be kidding me.
When Klosterman profiled Val Kilmer last year for Esquire (a piece in the book he’s currently promoting), he devoted an entire introductory paragraph to recounting how the guy who played Jim Morrison and Batman changed their interview plans at the last minute. (Klosterman was supposed to fly to Los Angeles to meet Val but the night before the interview he was told to head to New Mexico, where someone would pick him up; when he arrived, he was then instructed to rent a car and drive more than 70 miles to Kilmer’s six-thousand-acre ranch.) This 11th-hour turbulence certainly supports Klosterman’s claim that “crazy things seem normal” in Kilmer’s life, but including those details also makes Kilmer seem capricious and self-important.
For Klosterman, all the circumstances surrounding an interview are fair game. Not only does he have certain expectations for his subjects (they will not cancel), but when he sits down with musicians like Radiohead’s Thom Yorke or Billy Joel or Gnarls Barkley’s Danger Mouse, he poses the hardest questions first, thereby introducing “creative tension” to the ensuing conversation. In the same breath, he criticizes his peers for not doing the same, saying his fellow celebrity profilers are simply acolytes who want to befriend their subjects.
So to begin our interview, I had planned to read him the following passage:
Klosterman is, quite simply and almost literally, an ass. His soft, saggy face bears a disturbing resemblance to a 50-year-old man’s failing, hairless back end . . . he has a mop of ironically uncombed, dyed-yellow hair and thick-rimmed glasses that look like they were placed on the ass as a frat prank, like a wig and sunglasses thrown on an old jack-o-lantern . . . Turning again to his dust-jacket photo, one sees the Chuck Klosterman saggy ass-head attached to a torso wearing a loose, white t-shirt — a t-shirt that looks suspiciously as if it had been stretched in a struggle. I would bet that when that picture was taken, Klosterman was wearing nothing other than that stretched, white t-shirt . . . and perhaps a pair of black socks. In other words, he looks like a sex offender.