February 25, 2012

Chuck Klosterman: Where My Love for the Essay Began

by Kayla Kinney

Klosterman.jpg Chuck Klosterman

After reading Kristen Nathan’s last post here on the South Loop Review blog, I found myself inspired to share one of my favorite essayists, who is also the man that introduced me to creative nonfiction. During my freshman year at Columbia College Chicago I was a music major, so I think it’s safe to say I was (and still am) obsessed with music. A good friend of mine had recommended me a book called Sex, Drugs, and Coco Puffs, by Chuck Klosterman. While reading this, I found that Klosterman was just as obsessed with music as I was, and not to mention pop culture. Even when I found myself disagreeing with him (he loves Kiss, I hate Kiss), I still found his writing hilarious, informative, and wonderfully fresh. Below are my favorite Klosterman works.

Fargo Rock City: A Heavy-Metal Odyssey in Rural Nörth Daköta (2001) This is Klosterman’s first book. It’s a memoir about growing up in Wyndmere, North Dakota, as a self–proclaimed "metalhead." The book explores his life while living in the Midwest and his love of music, especially "hair–metal," in which bands like Mötley Crüe and Poison are arguably included. To be honest, I was sort of turned off by his obsession of hair–metal bands, but as I read the book I came to realize that he wasn’t just writing about that. He writes about music in a compassionate way, which is something many people cannot even remotely begin to tackle.

Sex, Drugs, and Coco Puffs (2003) If there was a popular culture god, Chuck Klosterman would be it. Not only does he absolutely slay music commentary, but he dominates popular culture writing as well. As a pop culture geek myself, this collection of essays really had me immersed. This is possibly Klosterman’s most well known book. In it, he covers everything from The Real World to serial killers. Caution: One might find it hard to keep their eyes away from the text.

Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story (2005) In this book, Klosterman focuses on the topic of death, particularly the deaths of rock stars and musicians. This piece of travel writing takes Klosterman to the death sites of Duane Allman, from The Allman Brothers Band, and Kurt Cobain in Seattle, Washington, among others. The most fascinating part of this book is the amount of work he put into it. Complete dedication to one’s writing is something I greatly admire.

Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas (2006) Before Klosterman published his first book, he was a writer for Spin Magazine and a columnist for other big-name publications. In IV, he has collected most (or all) of his works from these magazines to create this monster of a book. My favorite essay is an interview (and deep, intriguing exploration) of Britney Spears. Only Klosterman could get away with the things he writes in this book.

In case you’ve ever wanted dating advice from Mr. Klosterman, you can find it here.

He was also a regular columnist for Esquire. To read more of his articles, click here.

I don’t think that a short blog post can do Chuck Klosterman justice. I really do believe that he’s one of the finest contemporary nonfiction writers. He may not be a lyric essayist, but then again, why should his style matter? In my opinion, his prose is absolutely flawless. Klosterman digs into popular culture unlike any other writer I’ve read. He’s a master at what he does. I admire the hell out of him and hope that one day I can be as good a writer. I’m proud to say that Chuck Klosterman helped me foster my love for the essay.

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