The Chuck Klosterman Interview

October 31, 2003

Today is the day to forgo the peanut toffee in black and orange waxed paper.


Boo, etc.

Also, I talk about death on the Black Table today. Or, if you're so inclined, you can read my review of "Celebrities Uncensored" on their Black List.

Today is my last day guest-editing Opium Magazine. It was fantastic. Thanks to all the great writers who contributed! And to those of you who did and who didn't get squeezed in October, they're going to go up soon, mark my words.

Today's interviewee is a senior editor at Spin magazine and author of the hit "Low Culture Manifesto" Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs. Oh, also, you know that picture on the cover of Esquire magazine with Britney Spears coyly pulling down a not so innocent sweater over her butt? He interviewed her for that issue. Which I'm sure is one of the proudest moments of his career. Anyway, he is here to enlighten us about pop culture, because that's what we love and what he knows.

The Chuck Klosterman Interview

So why are you on Friendster and what do you get out of it? You seem like you've got more going on than the average Joe looking to waste time online.
I think I have less going for me than the average Joe. And - quite frankly - I just think Friendster is kinda interesting. For instance, I had no idea 30 percent of the people in America were involved in "open marriages."

I am legitimately curious whether this is an actual review or something written by a friend of yours as a joke. And if it's real, how do you respond or react to something like this?
That was just weird. I had never read the NY Press before, I had never met (or even heard of) the dude who wrote that piece, and the whole thing was just sort of befuddling. I'm sure most people who saw that piece undoubtedly had no idea who I even was! All in all, I guess I didn't think about it very much. It wasn't all that different than being criticized on some cokehead's blog. I mean, if the guy who wrote that article was smart OR talented, he obviously wouldn't be working for the NY Press.

As a critic, how do you react to critics of your work?
Being a critic helps you realize that all criticism - good, bad, and indifferent - says more about the writer than it does about the product being reviewed. All criticism is really just veiled autobiography.

What exactly is snark, and is it ever going to go away or be replaced?
"Snark" is a combination of bitchiness with irony. It's intellectual humor for the profoundly insecure, so it's probably pretty essential to the modern age.

I asked Greg Kot this and I'd like to know your opinion on it; why are people so passionate about their music?
Because many people (and especially teenagers) use music to understand their identity. It becomes a vehicle for self-understanding. They need music to be important; they need to inject meaning into rock so that they can hear their own reality when they play it back on their iPod.

When I was about 12, I developed a full on, checking-out-every-book-in-the-library, sending-letters, insane obsession with the Beatles. Do you think most people in our generation develop a pop culture obsession at some point in their life? Have you had one?
Yes. And I am obsessed with everything I like (even if I only like it remotely). I also think every heterosexual male goes through a Led Zeppelin obsession at some point between the ages of 17 and 25. I don't trust any man who hasn't.

What do you think are the best and worst movies made about music or the music industry?
The best would be This is Spinal Tap, Gimme Shelter, Decline of the Western Civilization, Part. II, A Hard Days Night, Don't Look Back, Dazed and Confused (for cultural reasons), and maybe School of Rock (which I just saw but really, really liked). The worst would probably be KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (which I nonetheless own) or maybe Detroit Rock City (which I also nonetheless own).

What are some of your biggest guilty pleasures?
If we are classifying guilty pleasures as "things we pretend to like ironically, but that we actually just like unconditionally," my answers would be as follows: No Doubt, the movie Roadhouse, the Road Rules/Real World Challenge, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Styx, Chili's and TGI Fridays, and Miller High Life.

Do you think John Cusack still holds his old John Cusack power, or does that just stay with young John Cusack? And if John Cusack isn't John Cusack anymore, who is the new John Cusack?
Cusack will always be Lloyd Dobler, and that's all the ever matters to anyone.

What ages falls into Gen X? Because I have a feeling that I (24 years old) am too young to be Gen X, but too young for Gen Y. And I'm definitely not a 'tween.'
I don't think "Gen X" designated a certain generation anymore, even though that was its original meaning. Right now, I think "Gen X" is just a modifier for anyone between the ages of 19 and 33 who simultaneously view themselves as a "bohemian" and a "consumer." It's mostly a term for advertising executives, really.

We all want to be cool and act cool, but any time somebody makes fun of Billy Joel I think to myself, "You jerk, you know you love 'Uptown Girl'/'Piano Man'/'Pressure'/'Allentown.' So anyway, what are your favorite Billy Joel songs? And is he going to pick himself back up or are his best years behind him?
My single favorite Billy Joel song is "Where's the Orchestra?," followed closely by "Honesty," "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," "Sleeping with the Televison On," "And So It Goes," "Laura," and "Los Angelenos." As for his "best years" … well, yeah. They are behind him. At this point, I think he's a pretty unhappy guy, and he can't figure out why being successful didn't make him happy. But that's also part of the reason why I think he's so awesome.

What are some of your favorite memoirs?
Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby is probably my favorite. I guess I don't really read memoirs.

I can't resist, after reading the latest issue of Esquire: tell us what it was like interviewing Britney Spears. Honestly.
That was - without question -- the strangest experience of my journalistic career.

Should I feel wrong the way I do about not really caring about Weezer?
Well, you shouldn't feel "wrong," per se. This is America, so we can do what we want. But are you crazy? Pinkerton is fucking incredible.

How does Britney compare to Madonna, as a sex icon?
I think she's a better sexual icon than Madonna, because everything Madonna does is completely calculated and self-styled. Britney's utter lack of self-awareness actually makes her way sexier.

You've written both for newspaper and magazines. What are the main differences in writing style and practice between the two?
Newspaper writing has very strict parameters (language, paragraph length), but - if you stay within those parameters - you have a lot of freedom, mostly because you're always working with such tight deadlines. Nobody can stop you from writing the way you want, because there isn't enough time. Magazine writing offers more flexibility philosophically (and you have more ability to place yourself into stories), but everything is edited (and usually over-edited) by committee. Moreover, every magazines likes to express a certain kind of voice (as an entire publication), so you always have to deal with that. It's kind of a push.

Why can't America's greatest athletes date America's greatest sex symbols? Did Halle Berry/David Justice not count?
Actually, that's a good example. Maybe I was wrong about all that shit.

The Houston Chronicle refers to your style in "Sex, Drugs…" as 'talking smack.' Sometimes when I've been watching 10 hours of "I Love the Eighties," I feel positively smacktalked out and just want to read a book or watch CNN. Do you ever get that way?
I experience this more conversationally; sometimes I'll have lunch with my friends at SPIN, and we will suddenly realize that we've just talked for 75 minutes without saying anything unironically.

How does it feel to be the 79th person interviewed for