Books

Pop culture can certainly use more Chuck Klostermans, an observer who is exceedingly insightful, self-aware and glib. Not since the late Lester Bangs have I really enjoyed such writing on a consistent basis.

Klosterman is like Bangs with a seat belt – he’s safe; never do you feel like you’re a witness to the writer’s crash and burn. When, for instance, he interviews Billy Joel, an artist Klosterman truly admires, things take an odd turn and as Klosterman explains in his preface to the profile, Joel ultimately feels betrayed by what Klosterman writes. For Bangs, Joel’s sense of betrayal would’ve triggered comic outrage; Klosterman only manages to summon bemusement. I wouldn’t say that’s a problem, just a difference in styles.

While Klosterman is a master of the celebrity profiles that make up about the first half of this latest collection, his opinion essays and the short story that fill out the book don’t do as much for me. Sure, they’re filled with the kind of wry, gently cynical observations that permeate the profiles, but it turns out that I don’t care as much for what Klosterman thinks as what he sees and how he sees it.

For being one of the most enigmatic performers in the history of popular music, Bob Dylan sure sounds normal in this NPR interview. As one friend, a big Dylan fan put it, he comes across remarkably like just another guy from Hibbing. I had been ambivalent about picking up Chronicles: Volume One until I heard him on Morning Edition. Now it has moved to the top of my reading pile.