Posted by Kurt
I have recently had a hunger for the genre of "smart people writing about stupid things," and this book is my new favorite example. While Klosterman may not deserve to be considered a subversive genius, he is a very smart person writing very good analysis of very shallow things, and I love it. This collection of essays includes a comparison of Pamela Anderson and Marilyn Monroe to examine the way our cultural attitudes toward sex have changed (nothing groundbreaking, but the essay is earnest and respectful, even as it touches on the pornographic), a reflection on the way The Real World has altered how young people see their real-life social groupings, a story of the author's time coaching Little League that made me laugh out loud to the point where I had to stop reading for a while, and more. There is a traditionally journalistic portrait of a Guns 'N Roses cover band, which delves into what the cover band phenomenon says about music and our society, and one of the only respectable analyses of Saved By The Bell that I have ever read (it doesn't pretend that the show was good, or entertaining, or coherent - it just looks at the various pieces and how they fit together in a way that considered what fans wanted/needed). There is also a haunting little essay about the cultural impact of serial killers, filled with impressive interviews and some soul-baring on the part of Klosterman. I even liked the essays about sports, although my eyes glazed over while I skimmed through the sections with way too much detail about a topic I loathe.
Certainly, this collection is not going to change your life. For all of its sophistication and energy, it's still a bunch of thoughts about shallow subjects. But they're terrific thoughts, and you should read them. (I have already bought copies of two more collections of Klosterman's essays because I loved these so much.)
I have to make one more observation that I couldn't find a way to weave into the main part of my review. In one essay, Klosterman dismisses science fiction as "philosophy for stupid people," and then quickly admits that his book is "philosophy for shallow people." I think that's the moment when I fell irreversibly in love with the book. Philosophy for shallow people is exactly what I want to read, and it's what I hope this blog can be.