Sporting an unkempt beard along with his signature T-shirt, jeans, and square glasses, pop-critic Chuck Klosterman was treated like a rock star by an audience of 20-to-45-year-olds crowded last Monday night into the Penn Quarter Olsson’s bookstore.
“I feel a close connection to [Klosterman],” gushed a star-struck employee to the audience as she introduced him, tapping into the cultural status Klosterman has acquired—among certain crowds, he’s as notorious as some of the celebrities he has interviewed. In addition to writing about Britney Spears, Bono, and Morrissey for Esquire and Spin magazines, Klosterman has gained attention as a savvy cultural critic and staunch pop-culture defender.
He was in town to promote the paperback release of his latest book, Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas, which consists of three parts: celebrity profiles; opinion pieces and theories on life and popular culture; and a short fictional story.
Klosterman answered questions from the audience, chatting about politics, his disdain for the latest crop of reality-television shows, and his failed past relationships.
Attendees learned which of his books Klosterman likes the most (Killing Yourself to Live), what reality-TV show he can’t stop watching (Survivor), why college basketball is so much better than the NBA (in the NBA, you’re rooting for a color rather than an institution), and why, despite liking it the most, he’ll never write a book as personal as Killing Yourself to Live again (writing and publishing one’s version of a shared memory tends to distort the other person’s conception of the event).
Klosterman discussed his take on blogging and its effect on mainstream journalism. “Most blogging is still reactionary to mainstream media,” he said, pointing out that many blogs rely heavily on links to outside sources. “It’s mostly just commentary right now, not reporting.”
Klosterman closed the Q&A by half-jokingly asking the audience to spread the rumor of an unaired season of Survivor. “I want to create an urban legend,” he said.
The next night, Klosterman read at the Wonderland Ballroom in DC’s Columbia Heights. Though the venue had changed, the crowd’s reaction was the same: People overflowed the bar’s small upstairs area, hoping to get a glimpse of the reporter.
“Most authors don’t have book readings in bars,” Klosterman pointed out, adding that once, two kids attending one of his events informed him that they had dropped acid in the parking lot beforehand.
Bars, large crowds, and drugs? Klosterman may just be a rock star after all.