Sunday, 8 November 2009

Chuck Klosterman is a tease

There. I've said it. This collection of essays is driving me crazy and I love it.

Why, you may ask, am I calling this good gentleman a tease? Well, the answer is that this book is filled with tiny gems of insight, thrown out in a single sentence, or shoved into the footnotes. You will be reading about time travel and the impossibility of time machines and it's satisfactorily interesting and funny and engaging on its own. But THEN, then you get this perfect (there's no other word for it) gem of a footnote. For example, in one footnote, which is self-deprecatingly and self-consciously introduced as semi-interesting, Klosterman uses Michael J. Fox's behaviour in Back to the Future to examine the lengthening of cultural memory:

"Before Fox plays "Johnny B. Goode" at the high school dance, he tells his audience, "This is an oldie... well, this is an oldie where I come from." Chuck Berry recorded "Johnny B. Goode in 1958. Back to the Future was made in 1985, so the gap is twenty-seven years. I'm writing this essay in 2009, which means the gap between 1985 and today is twenty-four years. That's almost the same amount of time. Yet nobody today would ever refer to Back to the Future as an "oldie," even if he or she were born in the 1990s. What seems to be happening is a dramatic increase in cultural memory: As culture accelerates, the distance between historical events feels smaller. The gap between 2010 and 2000 will seem far smaller than the gap between 1980 and 1970, which already seemed far smaller than the gap between 1950 and 1940. This, I suppose, is society's own version of time travel."

And then it's back to business as usual for Klosterman, and I sit in my apartment spluttering about how unfair it is. Seriously folks, come check it out. You will never feel like you are reading about something so simultaneously trite and profound again (and maybe that's the point).

P.S. Check out this sweet back cover. It is surprisingly accurate about the contents of the book.

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