At some point, I propose the theory that he can only get away with asking Bono and Britney Spears and Jeff Tweedy tough questions about themselves first because he’s made a name for himself.
“I always did this,” he swears. “In college, I did this. Let’s say you were doing this interview now, what would tell you more about what I was like? If you asked me all your questions and I answered them all? Or, if after the first question I was like, ‘Fuck you, this is ridiculous’ and I left. What would tell you more? What would tell readers more?”
I point out that he almost canceled this interview.
He stares into his glass. “That’s part of the reason that I’m probably doing this. I’m not in the right frame of mind to be doing this interview.”
I say that maybe when he interviewed Val Kilmer, there was something extraordinary going on in Kilmer’s life that caused the actor to switch plans at the last minute?
“That’s a great point,” he agrees. “If I was supposed to interview Val Kilmer and he canceled at the last minute, I would end up writing what my assumption would be, why I would do that if I was in his position.”
At this point, I realize that a) this whole process has been really weird, b) he’s just admitted that he’d make assumptions about Chuck Klosterman if he wasn’t Chuck Klosterman, and c) interviewing an interviewer about interviews makes this a really meta-meta-meta moment. I can’t help but blurt out this last point.
“That’s all my life is now!” he says, throwing his hands in the air. “That’s all it is!”
I have yet to mention that all day long, Klosterman’s been wearing a T-shirt that says FICTIONAL CHARACTER. So here’s an assumption: despite painting himself like a lucky bastard with a solid work ethic and a populist sensibility, this public Chuck Klosterman is both an invention and a calculation, consisting of both his own premeditated design and other peoples’ projections. And he knows it. By wearing those two words on his chest all day, he’s telling everybody that he is whatever you think he is. Genius, bullshit artist, entertainer, asshead. If you view him as an accessible author who feels like a drinking buddy, that’s who he is. If you have no clue who this weird guy with the shaggy reddish-blond hair is, then he’s a nobody. If you think he’s an opinionated dick who’s growing a brain in public, it’s your prerogative. Making judgments based on other peoples’ personas is how he has constructed his own persona.
“I’m incredibly self-aware, but I don’t have a great sense of self,” he says. “Your sense of me is so much more accurate than mine. Totally is. Anybody who’s not me, I think, has a better sense of me than I do.”
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Camille Dodero: firstname.lastname@example.org