Posted by

Allen Adams Allen Adams
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

edge staff writer


The grayness between black and white

Rate this item
(6 votes)
I Wear the Black Hat' explores good and evil

What makes a villain?

That's the question being tackled by Chuck Klosterman in his new book 'I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined)' (Scribner, $25). The noted cultural critic best known for collections such as 'Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs' has turned his sardonic eye toward a new subject the nature of villainy.

Have you ever wanted to read a breakdown of the major players in the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal (with a healthy dose of 'Basic Instinct' thrown in for good measure? You can find that here. How about a discussion of the similarity of attitude and impact between rap group N.W.A and the NFL's Oakland Raiders? That's here too. Or maybe you're looking for a deeper exploration of the O.J. Simpson case including a look at the absurdity of the mere existence of Simpson's 'If I Did It' memoir. If so, Klosterman has got something for you.

He brings a plentitude of the personal to the table as well; one of the book's highlights is 'Another Thing That Interests Me About the Eagles is That I [Am Contractually Obligated To] Hate Them,' an essay that starts with an expression of distaste for the song 'Take It Easy' before evolving into a full breakdown of Klosterman's love/hate relationship with music that is, he takes us through a 20-year stretch (1984-2003) and offers an explanation for his personal most-hated band in each of those calendar years (here's a hint: the Eagles are on there).

Whether he's using the possibility of a real-life Batman to explore the story of subway vigilante Bernard Goetz or offering some thoughts as to why Machiavelli might have gotten a bad rap, Klosterman brings a voice unlike any other to the table. He continues to elevate the level of pop culture discourse. 

Of course, through all of these seemingly innocuous comparisons, Klosterman is offering some very real analysis on the nature of good and evil. He uses these (and other) familiar examples to discuss the idea of villainy as a social construct, an idea as reliant on context as any other. Just as beauty does, villainy often resides in the eye of the beholder.

None of this would matter if Klosterman wasn't extremely good at what he does. His talents lie not only in his prose style which is clever without condescension and funny without foolishness (well, not much foolishness) but in his ability to cut a concept to the quick with smooth, assured strokes. He is that rare writer whose intelligence never undermines that of the reader. Rather, he speaks to his audience as an equal, sharing his insight in a manner that never seems prideful despite a prominent profundity.

'I Wear the Black Hat' is a thoughtful journey through a concept that makes many of us comfortable. Luckily, Klosterman serves as our genial guide, never letting things get too heavy despite the gravity inherent to some of his topics. It's another exceptional offering from one of this generation's most gifted cultural critics a must-read for longtime fans and neophytes alike.


The Maine Edge. All rights reserved. Privacy policy. Terms & Conditions.

Website CMS and Development by Links Online Marketing, LLC, Bangor Maine