Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dastardly Musings on Chuck Klosterman (Who is Appearing at Boswell on Thursday, July 18, 7 pm.)

One of the first large events we hosted for a touring author when we opened (and by touring I mean that the author was not local and not a personal favor) was Chuck Klosterman, who came for the paperback of his first novel, Downtown Owl. I wound up reading the book, which reminded me quite a bit of Tom Perrotta, only transported from the east coast to the Great Plains.

Klosterman was always a strong seller at the Downer Schwartz, with collections such as Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs and Chuck Klosterman IV as well as Fargo Rock City, his memoir of growing up in North Dakota. He had made his name with a column at Spin, and later at GQ and Esquire.

I got a taste of Klosterman at the packed event, partly because his appearance was an auspicious date, with first Farrah Fawcett-Majors and then Michael Jackson passing away. Can you say “We interrupt this regularly scheduled author talk for a very different author talk from the same author”? Had had always been so popular that I assumed he had appeared for Schwartz, but that turned out to be his first time in Milwaukee, only two states over from his childhood home.

Since then, Mr. Klosterman has become the new voice of “The Ethicist” in The New York Times Magazine, and has become also become a regular contributor to Grantland, and his reputation, already iconic, is probably bigger than ever.

So it was with some nervous energy that I jumped into reading I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined), his new book that came out yesterday, July 9. This is classic Klosterman, observing villainy from just about every angle, from classical philosophers and contemporary politics, to music, movies, and comic books. Klosterman’s thesis is that the villain is the person who knows the most and cares the least, and you can see this play out throughout the story.

Think about it. Isn’t Snidely Whiplash really the smartest character in the Dudley Dooright cartoon, though I do believe Dudley’s horse seems pretty on the ball as well. There he is, twirling his iconic mustache (yes, it was once a sign of villainy, not hipness), tieing Nell to the railroad tracks. Is there really a more villainous act? Klosterman explores that too in the book.

I had a great time reading the book. I love how Klosterman can be equally erudite talking high and low culture. I finished I Wear the Black Hat, passed it on, and then mislaid my notes for a review and blog post. That's right. I wrote down all these things I was going to talk about, and then lost them.

But fortunately some of our other plans came to fruition. We have a great poster put together by Nick (at left--you can buy one for $5). And yes, we have a mustache table, so that your clock, mug, or potato chip bag can take on a more villainous demeanor.

Here’s Dan Hyman’s interview in The Rolling Stone that touches on one of the other themes in the book, how villainy in the modern age gives heroics a run for the money in popularity contests.

Audie Cornish talks to Klosterman on NPR about how maturity entails graduating from Luke Skywalker to Han Solo to Darth Vader when it comes to who you find appealing in Star Wars.

I love this paradox about vigilantes. We have little tolerance for this in real life (Bernhard Goetz) but there’s nothing more appealing in the worlds of comic books and movies (Batman)

And finally, I have promised publishers that if they make nice trailers, I will embed them on the blog when we host an event. This one’s only 37 seconds, but I stand by my promise.


Can't make it to Milwaukee. Here's the rest of Mr. Klosterman's tour.

Wednesday, July 10, 7:00 pm:
Book Court
163 Court Street, Brooklyn,NY

Thursday, July 11, 7:00 pm:
Porter Square Books
25 White Street, Cambridge,MA

July 15,7:30 pm:
Boulder Bookstore
1107 Pearl St. Boulder,CO
This is a ticketed event

Tuesday, July 16, 7 pm:
Elliott Bay Book Company
1521 10th Avenue, Seattle,WA

Wednesday, July 17, 7:30 pm:
Skylight Books
1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles,CA

Tuesday, July 23, 7 pm:
Gladstone Hotel
Toronto, ON
This is a ticketed event.

Thursday, July 25, 7:30 pm:
Philadelphia Free Library
1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia,PA

7:30PM Wednesday, August 7, 13:30 pm:
Bryant Park Outdoor Reading Room
42nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, New York

So after you've finished twirling your villainous mustache, come to our event (Thursday, July 18,  pm) with Klosterman and buy a copy of I Wear the Black Hat, and get it signed.

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