An excerpt from “I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real or Imagined)” by Chuck Klosterman


The link above will direct you to a sample chapter from the upcoming Chuck Klosterman book “I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real or Imagined).” (What?! You haven’t preordered it yet?) This chapter is about all the musicians Klosterman hated from 1984-2003 and how he came around on some of them … or just didn’t care anymore. Like most of Klosterman’s criticism, much of it is funny and provocative. However, a particular passage stands out:

“Somewhere in 2003, my ability to hate the Eagles (or Coldplay, or Dave Matthews, or Mumford and Sons, or whoever) just evaporated. I could no longer construct antipathy for random musicians, even if they deserved it. My personality had calcified and emancipated itself from taste. I still cared about music, but not enough to feel emotionally distraught over its nonmusical expansion into celebrity and society. And this was a real problem. Being emotionally fragile is an important part of being a successful critic; it’s an integral element to being engaged with mainstream art, assuming you aspire to write about it in public. If you hate everything, you’re a banal a–hole . . . but if you don’t hate anything, you’re boring. You’re useless. And you end up writing about why you can no longer generate fake feelings that other people digest as real.

There needs to be more awareness about the cultural impact of reverse engineering, particularly as it applies to fandom and revulsion. It’s the most important part of describing the day-to-day import of art, which is ultimately what criticism is supposed to do. But there are no critics who can admit to their own reverse engineering without seeming underinformed. It’s like arguing that the greatest Russian novel ever written happens to be the only one you ever finished.”

The link above takes you to the full chapter, as opposed to the small excerpt of the chapter that’s in the print edition of Entertainment Weekly this week. And if you like what you see, be sure to check out any of Klosterman’s non-fiction books, especially “Fargo Rock City” and “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs.”

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