I often take a much-needed respites from the world of technology. As much as I consider myself a “tech boy” and proselytize the benefits of new toys, technologies, and applications, I need to occasionally just take a break. Activities may involve:
- Intentionally leaving my CrackBerry at home while I hit the gym
- Enjoying the relatively low-tech activity of watching TV
- Tennis and golf (my favorite headache, to steal a phrase from Geddy Lee)
- Reading a book without (direct) implications about technology
Whatever my vice, sometimes it’s just nice to go “off the grid”, to steal another phrase, but this time from The Matrix.
To this end, I recently engulfed Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman, a collection of twelve disparate essays about a wide range of topics. Failure, Garth Brooks, time travel, and Abba are just some of the subjects of covered in this killer compilation from an exceptional and prolific writer.
Oh, the Guilt
My favorite essay in the book (“Oh, the Guilt”) deals with Nirvana’s second album In Utero. I was never heavily into the band or grunge in general back in the early 90s. Still, I found Klosterman’s take on the band’s reaction to its new found fame fascinating. Klosterman writes:
But Nirvana (or at least Cobain, and possibly bassist Krist Novoselic) …could not reconcile the dissonance between mass success and artistic merit; interestingly, they assumed combining mass success with dissonance was the only way to salvage any merit at all. And this really requires two very weird questions: Why did In Utero need to be conventionally “bad” in order for it to be exceptionally good? And–perhaps more importantly–why did that fraction of badness only matter if people knew that the badness was intentional?
Also noteworthy are the essays on football and laugh tracks. I had never considered the political nature of the former and the ridiculous nature of the latter.
I can follow just about all of Klosterman’s references to 80s rock bands and relatively obscure TV shows and movies. After all, Klosterman and I are the same age and have similar tastes in many forms of entertainment. However, I suspect that many of his allusions are lost on more than a few people. After all, how many people know who Nigel Tufnel is?
Does this reduce their enjoyment of his books? I couldn’t tell you. I can tell you though that a quick peek through the index will reveal an amazing pastiche of pop culture references. You can call Klosterman many things, but “dry” is certainly not one of them.
On a different level, it seems as if Klosterman is maturing as a writer. I never had a problem with his drug-induced yarns from some of his earlier tomes, but the content Dinosaur is less about crazy high school days and more about broader societal themes. For example, the last essay, “Fail”, concerns The Unabomber and the problems caused by technology to society.
So much for getting away from technology …