Chuck Klosterman Essays

In the introduction to your new book, you say reading your old work is the ‘worst kind of time machine.’ Is it that awful, looking back at these pieces?

Yes, because I’m just compelled to want to rewrite everything I’ve ever written. My dream life would have been if I could have written my first book forever and never have it come out … but be rich. Every time I go back and I read something that I’ve written before, I see things that could have been different.

Chuck Klosterman: 'Does staring at a blank computer screen for two hours count as creativity?'

What do you think has aged well?

Sometimes you accidentally say something that becomes meaningful, even though that wasn’t the original intent. There’s an essay in there about Tim Tebow, and at one point I’m writing about the 2012 election, and Obama running against at the time whoever he would face, the unknown candidate. And I pose this hypothetical about a candidate who comes forward and has no plan, and basically just tells people to have faith in him. I framed it and set it up as an implausible, irrational scenario – and that actually happened four years later! That was cool. All the times I tried to be smart, here I am actually being right one time because I wasn’t trying.

You’ve said before that sport has become the most exciting form of TV because it has an unknown outcome. After Brexit and Trump, has politics started to give it a run for its money?

It certainly feels that way in the wake of Brexit and the wake of Trump. Those are the two events where there was just this disbelief over the fact that for many years it did not seem like these were the kind of things it was possible for us to be wrong about. Every previous election in my memory, the outcome reflected what the suspicion would be.

Do you think that politics will remain as unpredictable?

My dream life would have been if I could have written my first book forever and never have it come out … but be rich

It could signal a pretty massive change in the way people are perceiving the world, but what I think is more likely is that the chasm between the media and the consumer is greater. There’s always been a gap between the way the media and journalists see the world and the average person views the world, but that gap has increased. Going into the election, you would hear people say, ‘Oh you know Hillary Clinton’s approval rating is 36% and Trump’s approval rating is 31%, so regardless of who is elected, we’re going to have the least popular president ever’. The thing that they often overlooked was that the approval rating of the media was in the low 20s or in the teens – almost no one seemed to have a positive perception of the media as an abstraction.

Trump scandals create a hurdle for his rightwing media defenders

Are you shocked that Trump won despite the polling and predictions?

There was no way that you could have expected this. If someone would have told me that at some point there’s going to be a presidential candidate that all the major news organisations are going to see as an enemy and that would have helped the individual – it would have seemed implausible. But now it’s very clear that that’s what happened.

What do you think triggered this breakdown in trust?

It comes from the 90s. When Fox News emerged and was followed by MSNBC, there was suddenly this realization that people actually preferred non-objective news sources. There was this idea for a long time that objectivity is impossible, because we’re not robots, which led some people to say, well, let’s totally give up on it entirely. The way I always perceived of being a journalist is that you were supposed to be hyper-aware of your biases and then compensate for them. That was the whole idea. But once there was this idea that what people actually want is news that reaffirms their pre-existing view of the world – the idea that it was a meaningful source of information evaporated. It was seen now as personality-branded, and your interest in the news was just an extension of who you are.

Has politics bled into pop culture completely now?

The idea that everything is politics now, the question is, to me at least, is this a trend, or just the way things are going to be? Because certainly right now, you can’t think or write about anything without putting it in some sort of political context. Doesn’t matter if it’s film, sports, whatever the thing is – you always need to place it in a sphere or what its secondary political meaning is. I sometimes think that this is just the politics of the moment, and maybe in 10 years people will go and look back at the popular culture from this period and almost experience it for the first time. Instead of looking at a film like Get Out as a political extension, they’ll look at it just as a horror film, or instead of a Beyoncé record as having something to do with intersectionality feminism, they might just look at it as music.

Why do you think that political angle has become unavoidable?

To review a film like that simply as cinema would guarantee no audience interest. It’s not even that they don’t want it, they would be mad about it. They would see it as a kind of apolitical stance by omission. That you were forging a political idea by refusing to acknowledge it. There’s always been a aspect of that. The Village Voice would always review film and music through a political lens. There were certain publications that were built around that idea: that everything is politics. But they were always alternative ways to think about this. Now it’s the standard way, and I think that’s what is discomforting to some people.

Why do you think that so much pop culture is being written about in the context of Trump?

Taylor Swift: ‘Sexy? Not on my radar'

Trump began as a pop-culture figure. He began his career as an element of business, but really as an element of popular culture. So it’s not surprising in a way that he is so much of a pop-culture president. I suppose Obama was as well, but not as stridently. In the moment, the Trump administration does have this sense of this completely unforeseen potential cataclysm, and if that proves out to be true it will be this defining moment of the century, but there’s also the chance that he will just be seen as a bad president, and then people will move on. And then art from this period will be seen as related to him, but not essential.

The interviews with Jimmy Page and Taylor Swift are so different – she seems to relish it, he seems to loathe every minute. What do you make of stars like Beyoncé and Drake shunning conventional interviews?

Celebrities at that level provide people with different things. Beyoncé does not have to give interviews because her fanbase wants to believe whatever they want about her; they don’t need her to say anything. Taylor Swift is different because it seems as though her appeal is built around the deconstruction of what she does, and she needs to talk in order for that to happen. Led Zeppelin is a totally different world. You couldn’t see [Jimmy Page] unless you bought a magazine with a photograph of him in it or he came to your town once, or you saw Song Remains the Same once in theaters or something. It wasn’t that the work was more musical, but the appreciation was more musical because the music was all that you had, and everything else had to be imagined.

Chuck Klosterman’s X is out now

Chuck Klosterman

Klosterman in 2009

BornCharles John Klosterman
(1972-06-05) June 5, 1972 (age 45)
Breckenridge, Minnesota, U.S.
Pop culture
SpouseMelissa Maerz (m. 2009)

Charles John "Chuck" Klosterman (born June 5, 1972) is an American author and essayist who has written books and essays focused on American popular culture. He has been a columnist for Esquire and and wrote "The Ethicist" column for The New York Times Magazine. Klosterman is the author of ten books, including two novels and the essay collection Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto. He was awarded the ASCAP Deems Taylor award for music criticism in 2002.[1]

Early life[edit]

Klosterman was born in Breckenridge, Minnesota, the youngest of seven children of Florence and William Klosterman.[2] He is of German and Polish descent.[3] He grew up on a farm in nearby Wyndmere, North Dakota,[4] and was raised Roman Catholic. He graduated from Wyndmere High School in 1990 and from the University of North Dakota in 1994.[citation needed]


After college, Klosterman was a journalist in Fargo, North Dakota, and later a reporter and arts critic for the Akron Beacon Journal in Akron, Ohio, before moving to New York City in 2002.[5]

Klosterman was a senior writer and columnist for Spin from 2002 to 2006. He has written for GQ, Esquire,The New York Times Magazine,The Believer,The Guardian, and The Washington Post.[6]

Klosterman participated in an e-mail exchange on ESPN's Page 2 with writer Bill Simmons in August 2004.[7] In September 2005, Simmons interviewed him in his "Curious Guy" segment.[8] Though initially recognized for his rock writing, Klosterman has written extensively about sports and began contributing articles to Page 2 on November 8, 2005.[9] The ESPN site featured his week-long blog from Super Bowl XL in early 2006,[10] and a weekend-long blog covering his experience at the 2007 Final Four.[11]

In 2008, Klosterman spent the summer as the Picador Guest Professor for Literature at the University of Leipzig's Institute for American Studies in Leipzig, Germany.[12]

In 2009, Klosterman married journalist Melissa Maerz.[13]

Klosterman was a founding member of Grantland, a now defunct sports and pop culture web site, which was conceived and led by former ESPN employee and founder of the web site The Ringer, Bill Simmons. Klosterman was a consulting editor.[14]

He also appeared in three episodes of the Adult Swim web feature Carl's Stone Cold Lock of the Century of the Week, discussing the year's football games as an animated version of himself and trying (unsuccessfully) to plug his book as Carl cuts him off each time. He quickly vanished after, with Carl giving the explanation of "He had to go do a book tour and also he didn't like how I kept calling him 'pencilneck'".

In 2012, Klosterman appeared in the documentary film Shut Up and Play the Hits, as the interviewer for an extended interview with the film's subject, LCD Soundsystem leader James Murphy that is featured throughout the film.

In 2015, Klosterman appeared on episodes 6 and 7 of the 1st season of IFC show, Documentary Now! as a music critic for the fictional band "The Blue Jean Committee."

His eighth book, titled I Wear the Black Hat, was published in 2013. It focuses on the paradox of villainy within a heavily mediated culture. His best-selling ninth book, But What If We're Wrong: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past, was published June 7, 2016. It visualizes the contemporary world as it will appear in the future to those who will perceive it as the distant past.[15]


Klosterman is the author of ten books and a set of cards.


Essay collections[edit]

  • Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto (2003), a best-selling collection of original pop culture essays
  • Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas (2006), a collection of articles, previously published columns, and a semi-autobiographical novella
  • Eating the Dinosaur (2009), an original collection of essays on media, technology, celebrity, and perception
  • Chuck Klosterman X: A Highly Specific, Defiantly Incomplete History of the Early 21st Century (2017), a collection of previously published essays and features



  1. ^
  2. ^"Maerz-Klosterman | INFORUM | Fargo, ND". Inforum. August 9, 2009. Retrieved January 8, 2010. 
  3. ^"Tony DuShane | Chuck Klosterman – An Awesomely Long Interview". The Nervous Breakdown. November 12, 2011. Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  4. ^Klosterman, Chuck (April 27, 2003). "Everyone Knows This Is Somewhere". The New York Times. Retrieved January 8, 2010. 
  5. ^Chuck Klosterman, "Rubber City Meets the Crossroad," The Village Voice, 15 October 2002.
  6. ^Cityfile, "Chuck Klosterman," Gawker, 3 February 2008.Archived June 11, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^Klosterman, Chuck and Simmons, Bill (August 17, 2004). "Face-Off: A late wake-up call". ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved November 3, 2009. 
  8. ^Simmons, Bill (September 27, 2005). "Curious Guy: Chuck Klosterman". ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved November 3, 2009. 
  9. ^Klosterman, Chuck (November 8, 2005). "Just keep my sports the same". ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved November 3, 2009. 
  10. ^Klosterman, Chuck (January 30, 2006). "Dying a Super Death". ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved November 3, 2009. 
  11. ^Klosterman, Chuck (March 30, 2007). "Taking aim at the Final Four". ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved November 3, 2009. 
  12. ^American Studies Leipzig, "New Picador Professor Chuck Klosterman," 28 May, 2008.
  13. ^Dresser, Ashley (September 30, 2009). "Klosterman and Maerz: two hipsters say "I do" | – Serving the University of Minnesota Community Since 1900". Retrieved June 3, 2011. 
  14. ^"All-Star Roster of Writers and Editors to Join New ESPN Web Site". Archived from the original on April 30, 2011. Retrieved April 29, 2011. 
  15. ^Jones, Nate Chuck Klosterman Is Writing a Book About the Possibility of Us Being Wrong About, Well, EverythingVulture. January 20, 2016
  16. ^"HYPERtheticals by Chuck Klosterman". Random House. June 15, 2010. Retrieved June 3, 2011. 
  17. ^"I Wear the Black Hat | Book by Chuck Klosterman – Simon & Schuster". Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  18. ^Frase, Brigitte Review: 'But What if We're Wrong?' by Chuck KlostermanMinneapolis Star Tribune. June 24, 2016
  19. ^"The Visible Man". 

External links[edit]

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