On the walk over, Klosterman apologizes for having nearly blown me off. As he had hinted onstage, he’s going through a “fucked-up” personal situation that he doesn’t want to discuss. He’s being very nice; I sorta feel bad for him.
But this is an interview. At Charlie’s we order drinks: a Belgian beer for me, a Jack-and-ginger for him. Call me a coward, but I decide not to start with anything confrontational. Instead, I ask how a day like today must feel, with the high of two overpopulated readings countered by news of an impending bad review from the New York Times (when it comes out, it’s actually not that bad). “You can’t let yourself be emotionally affected by either,” he explains. “It’s weird because the disenchanting part is that if you get yourself in this mindset, it takes away your ability to enjoy people liking you.”
Klosterman again insists that his self-awareness with regard to fame — something he scrutinizes about his subjects relentlessly — is informed by the fans and reporters who keep telling him he’s famous. “Look, 98 percent of America doesn’t know who I am. You can surround yourself with people who know who you are, but that doesn’t mean that you’re famous. But it’s easy to get confused.” He certainly doesn’t feel he’s unapproachable. “I’m totally accessible. Obviously, you just came up to me, asked me to do an interview, and I said ‘Yeah.’ I don’t feel in any way I’m inaccessible.”
Klosterman does, however, frame things with reference to professional attention a lot, which certainly suggests that his relatively successful career isn’t nearly as accidental as he pretends. I ask why he doesn’t have a blog, or even a Web site when many of his contemporaries do. “I always think the question should be, ‘Why would I have a blog?’ I’m not sure why I would. I realize most people have blogs, but that’s not a reason to get one, is it? That seems like the worst reason to get something.”
I ask how he thinks rock criticism’s evolving amid all the feverish blogging, and he answers by talking about how writers get noticed. “Now every opinion is put forth on everything. The Scissor Sisters just put a record out and there’s 10,000 people saying it’s awesome. There’s 10,000 people saying it’s terrible. There’s 10,000 saying it’s good. There’s 10,000 people saying it’s average. There’s 10,000 people saying it’s normative. Every opinion is valid. So the only way to get attention is to be the loudest, most bombastic, craziest person. The way music writers get noticed now is by saying insane, contrarian shit.” I can’t help but think that he’s talking about how he established himself.
And despite the you-could-be-me-too shtick, Chuck Klosterman cares deeply about being Chuck Klosterman the “famous” writer. I propose a hypothetical situation in which he finds himself suddenly blacklisted. His agent has dropped him and his editors won’t return his calls. “What would’ve happened?” I don’t specify; that’s just the situation. “I could write under a pseudonym. I could go back to law school, I suppose. Are you trying to ask me if I wasn’t a writer, what would I do?” No, I’m trying to ask what he’d do if he’d been this Chuck Klosterman and then couldn’t be anymore. “You know what I’d love to be? A private investigator. I’m serious, I’d love it. I’d love staking buildings out. I love snooping around trying to figure things out about people secretly; I love watching people.” As we’ve been talking, I’ve inadvertently misplaced our bill’s signed credit-card receipt. While I hunt for it, he sounds a little uneasy. “What you’re describing: I really hope that doesn’t happen. But I could live for a while though. I’ve saved my money.”