Recommended Reading: Chuck Klosterman – Eating the Dinosaur

Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman (2009, Scribner)

I was first introduced to Chuck Klosterman through SPIN magazine back in junior high, and I have bought and read every single non-fiction work he has written.  His irreverent, humorous writing links philosophy and pop culture in a unique way.  And while his latest may not be his OVERALL best (Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs is hard to beat), Eating the Dinosaur is classic Klosterman at his best.

Is it a coincidence that the topics Klosterman chooses to discuss in his new collection of essays have recently come up in numerous conversations I have been having with friends?  I have probably verbally recommended this book to more people than anything else I’ve ever read.  While I don’t agree with everything Klosterman brings up (hating on TV On the Radio comes to mind), his arguments are very well connected, coherently argued, and sometimes very hilarious in the process.

The first chapter that I’ll discuss is the one about football.  I have noticed that this sport adopts new technologies and rules more frequently than others, but I have never considered football having a liberal idealogy while pretending to be a more conservative sport.  Or that this blueprint has seemingly led to its unanswered success in comparison with truly conservative sport franchises, like those of the MLB or NBA.  Klosterman puts it all on the table and delivers, citing not only advances in technology (the instant replay), but also the mindframe of coaches, defensive structure, the passing game, etc.  And he backs it up with history.  Bonus points also for a shout-out to the now-former head coach of my alma mater, Mr. Mike Leach.

Another great chapter is one that discusses the unexplainable, unnecessary use of the laugh track in sitcoms.  One observation I found remarkable is the fact that society deems comedy shows that DO NOT use one more “relevant” and “credible” than others.  The prime example, of course, is the difference in critical opinion between The Office and Two and a Half Men.  Is it because, Klosterman asks, we are actually having to listen to the storyline/dialogue and determine for OURSELVES what we find  humorous rather than being told by the recorded laughter of (possibly) dead people?

Also look for essays that:

– link Kurt Cobain to David Koresh

– observe how Chris Gaines was different than other celeb alter egos, and

– give us the “best response” to potentially damning scandals (a chapter Elliot Spitzer and Tiger Woods should read together).

For his final chapter, Klosterman boldly goes where none have gone before, and declares that the Unabmomber had a few good points.  No spoilers here, you’ll just have to read it, but don’t feel bad if the argument is so sound you have to agree.  That’s what Klosterman does – he finds arguments to everything, even to occasionally spite himself, but in the end he provides solid footing for his sometimes-hilarious rhetoric….and it’s what he’s done for years.

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