According to the online know-it-all Wikipedia, Charles John "Chuck" Klosterman is an American pop-culture journalist, critic and essayist who was born on June 5, 1972, in Wilkin County, Minn., and raised on a farm near Wyndmere, N.D. A few decades later, he—along with a bulk of the editorial staff—was fired from Spin magazine in an unsuccessful restructuring.
But fear not: as the best-selling author of Fargo Rock City and Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, he'll still be able to make his rent on time. In addition to his column for Esquire, he has a new book coming out this fall, Chuck Klosterman IV. WW spoke with Klosterman from his apartment in New York, where he was gearing up for a tour to promote his third book, Killing Yourself to Live—which has just been released in paperback.
WW: Killing Yourself to Live incorporates a lot of motley topics, like rock-star death sites, drugs and a lot of odd pop culture minutiae. Given your status, do you ever feel that you have to like certain things—or at least say you do?
Chuck Klosterman: I never do. I can understand that question. There's this weird thing—and I mention this in Killing Yourself to Live at one point—where people for a long time thought I was lying when I said I loved Rod Stewart. They thought it must have been some kind of social posturing, like, "I'm going to become the person who likes Rod Stewart." But why would I possibly do that? But the thing is that enough people accuse me of this to make me realize that lots of people must be doing this all the time. There must be tons of people pretending to like things.
How do you decide what to write about for your column?
I struggle with this. A lot of times people will say, "I have this fear that the only people who will like my writing are people who are exactly like me and think like me and live like me." But sometimes, I have this fear that my writing would only be interesting to me specifically. I can't imagine another person who would be interested in what I am thinking about. With Esquire, I'll have ideas for columns and then I'll talk to my editor. If he seems interested, then I just do it. Basically, the only thing that I can do is write about the things that I like and hope that other people like it.
Well, you seem to be able to pick topics that resonate with readers.
Yeah, I've been super-fortunate. I can't believe how my life has worked out. I can't even believe I'm doing this interview. It's weird to me that I'm walking around my apartment, talking to you on the phone. That said, I realize six years ago, nobody cared anything about me. Six years ago, I was unknown—in Akron. Nobody cared. So now, everything's changed. My life is totally different. It's completely plausible that things could change back in six years. It's very possible that in six years, I could be back working at a newspaper, if newspapers still exist.
You just had a birthday, didn't you?
I did—June 5th. How did you know that?
That's something I'm kind of obsessed with at the moment. The thing that I want to find out is who's doing the entry for butter. There's an entry for butter! What would motivate someone to do that? There's an entry for waffles; I cannot fathom what that person's motive is. And it's good—it's got the history of waffles! It's amazing to me!
Boredom makes people do strange things.
But how bored do you have to be to say, "I want to write a Wikipedia entry on balsa wood?" How many things do you have to do before that before you're like, "I'll expand this entry."
If you had to decide between never again writing another word or never again listening to music, which would you pick?
I would never listen to music again. Writing is the most important thing in my life; there's almost nothing I'd take before that. I'm very fortunate in the fact that writing has always been fun to me—it's the one thing that I can do OK; it's the only successful relationship I've ever had.
Chuck Klosterman will read from
at Barnes & Noble Lloyd Center, 1317 Lloyd Center, 249-0845. Tuesday, June 27. 7 pm. Free.