The best line in Chuck Klosterman’s book “Killing Yourself To Live” – a rambling, roadtrip dissertation on rock music deaths, which, of course, ends up being about much more than its proposed subject – occurs after numerous pages of erudite, though often overly self-referential thought.
Klosterman says to his reader that at some point (after the aforementioned pages of snuck-in self-congratulation), he or she “will also complain about the author’s reliance on self-indulgent, postmodern self-awareness, which will prompt the person you’re conversing with to criticize the influence of Dave Eggers on the memoir-writing genre.”
The truthfulness of that self-conscious statement is refreshing. Or at least it would be, if it were easier to accept Klosterman’s admission, because, well, it’s Chuck Klosterman. He listens to the KISS solo albums – all four of them, including Peter Criss’s – wears painfully indie glasses and a Martha Stewart shag of a haircut. He’s from North Dakota, for God’s sake. That’s not the problem – after music geek is chic in a very mid-1990s, I-wish-I-were-Stephen-Malkmus-and-hey-I’m-thinking-of-moving-to-the-Village . and-I-used-to-wear-goggles-in-gym-class kind of way. But after acknowledging and seemingly emphasizing his uncoolness, Klosterman slips in mentions of all the publications he’s written for (at present, Esquire, SPIN, The New York Times magazine, ESPN) and how he eats whatever he wants because he goes running, like, all the time. Or a note that he’s boning some really hot chicks. Not just one – there’s a hot, random blonde as well as the Residential College-type standby best friend. And one named Lenore.
Klosterman’s recent book signing at Borders Books and Music prompted this gem from a friend of mine: “I’ve never simultaneously hated and loved someone so much as I do right now.”
Eggers – best known for the Pulitzer-prize nominated “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” – is more self-indulgent. “AHWOSG” is an almost-memoir, a book based on life after the deaths of both of his parents only a few months apart, some parts slightly exaggerated to make him sound like a better person than he actually is. How many women had Eggers slept with by age 25? It’s somewhere in the mid-20s, and he will tell you in detail. How many of his friends has he convinced to move out to San Francisco to work at his start-up Might magazine (this is the early ’90s by the way)? Several, and one of them gets in this near-death accident and the Eggers character visits her at the hospital numerous times and is super precious about everything. Okay.
Later on in the story he admits he wasn’t actually that good friends with Co-worker Who Had the Terrible Accident and that the character Guy He Keeps Saving From Suicide is actually related to somebody else in a different way. That’s not so bad; there’s a disclaimer that this isn’t “really” a memoir. He also uses some at-the-time-unorthodox “literary devices” – having his eight-year-old brother talk as the voice of a shrink, talking to people that aren’t there, like Alanis Morrissette in that one crazy music video, a device Klosterman will later crib.
It’s not quite as it sounds here; you have to actually read the book to catch his often too self-congratulating tone.
But it’s really hard to hate on someone who had to raise his kid brother essentially on his own after the death of his parents. Or some slightly nerdy, oddly sexy rock critic for wanting to remind people that he a) has a life b) gets laid, for those that don’t believe in his social skills.
Maybe it’s just a complex; I know I’m not the only person who feels this way. Maybe the Klosterman detractors and Eggers haters wish they were as successful. Most people I’ve noticed who disliked either writer are writers themselves, or just incredibly cynical. Yet I have this theory that at least a portion of the people that like Chuckie Klos idolize him because they only wish they knew as much about pop culture as he did, and they’re personally kind of a troglodyte in that department.
But the rest of us are just envious. We despise people who are just like us that succeed and have more of an allowance to be pretentious fucks. Why are the rest of us Midwestern, Ratt-loving, former high school basketball players not writing for Esquire or Mcsweeney’s and doing national book tours?
Whatever. I’m going back to E.B. White.