Good day to you all! How is this fine Monday finding you? Other than it being Monday?(Don’t worry, the nice thing about seven-day weeks is that Friday usually shows up again). To me, there’s nothing like a well-written, thought-provoking, and comprehensive piece of nonfiction. You’ve heard phrases like, “You can’t make this stuff up”, or “Stranger than fiction” in the past, and it’s true, sometimes real life can be more stunning than anything conjured up by George R. R. Martin. One of my favorite nonfiction writers is the hip, sometimes controversial, and always well-bearded Chuck Klosterman, whose works include Eating The Dinosaur, and Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. His latest, I Wear The Black Hat, takes an introspective and frequently mesmerizing look at the concept of villains, or “bad guys”. The opening quote is not in the book at all, but I wanted to get your attention.
Klosterman has always taken a “Devil May Care” attitude in his writing, almost as if he is an outside observer of human life, and is able to prod and dissect all of its nuance and intricacies while remaining devoid of any emotional impact. Actually, as somewhat of an amateur journalist myself, and strong advocate of the HBO drama The Newsroom, you have to develop sort of a “dual nature” when it comes to reporting bad news, as a person, you’re disgusted and sickened by tragedy, but from I news stand point, you have to keep your cool. I mention this because in this piece about both real and imagined villains, Klosterman describes some absolutely appalling circumstances and events to illustrate his points.
In one excerpt, he explains how the cartoon character Snidely Whiplash from “Rocky and Bullwinkle”, known for tying women to train tracks, was actually based on a real person who did that exact thing. Moments like this are juxtaposed with Klosterman’s trademark humor and wit. He is a maestro of pop culture with dizzying recall and his depiction of events is so vivid you truly feel like you’re there in the room. Let’s talk theme, the overlying theme of this book is not shock value, it is to shine a light on the concept of a villain and villainy, and whether or not all villains are inherently bad, or just hated. He does after all, talk about Darth Vader in this book, and his simultaneous roles as hero and villain.
As far as reads go, you could do a lot worse, at just under 200 pages (not including the index), you can get through this book in a few brisk sittings, possibly less. You’ll be riveted by his recounting of the OJ Simpson saga, and his essay on why Andrew Dice Clay is so unpopular, (answer: because he’s not talented and is a relentless bigot and chauvinist).
Overall, if you enjoy reading, and are willing to Google a lot of pop culture references you won’t immediately get, give this book a try. Klosterman is a masterful author with a very diverse background in sports, music, film, arts… The list goes on. He has written for ESPN, and The New Yorker, and has prepared something quite unique here that I think you will really enjoy. I give this book 4 out of 5.