Chuck Klosterman went on record Thursday night at Butler: he'd rather have fingernails for hair than hair for fingernails.
"That way, I'd be like a cool rhinoceros. Having hair for fingernails just makes you... a werewolf that didn't go all the way."
Klosterman, who read from his forthcoming book, I Wear the Black Hat, for the first time for Butler University's Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series, said that such bizarre questions are par for the course for him: "I'm a weird guy. People like to try and out-weird me."
The Reilly Room was standing room only for Klosterman's appearance, a situation the writer humbly attributed to the basketball team being on the road that night. Chris Speckman, a Butler MFA student who heads up the Writing in the Schools program at Shortridge High School, introduced Klosterman, paying homage to the relevance and presence notable in his writing, and referencing a favorite line: "People who say they like all kinds of music really like no music at all."
Klosterman is robustly intelligent but generally eschews highbrow topics, preferring instead to talk about the band Coldplay or the merits of hanging on to childhood hatred. His first book, Fargo Rock City, discusses the phenomenon of glam metal (his favorite band is K.I.S.S.), and his most famous work, a collection of essays, is Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, which calls itself a pop culture manifesto.
"Watching someone read is boring," Klosterman said prior to his reading. He explained that he was going to do it anyway because this was a new book coming out and doing so would "... gauge your level of boredom."
I Wear the Black Hat dissects the culture and psychology of villains. This could be a heavy-handed topic, but is delightfully funny in the hands of Klosterman. The book devotes a section to Machiavelli, Hitler, and Aleister Crowley. It also devotes a section to the Eagles.
Klosterman read from the introduction, which opens by parsing the chorus of the Metallica cover "Am I Evil?" which includes the lyrics "Am I evil? Yes I am. Am I evil? I am man, yes I am." Klosterman's inner ear inserted a comma after the second "I am," hearing it as "I am, man" instead of "I am man." The two are vastly different statements.
Dressed in a cable-knit navy blue sweater, gray slacks, and purple Chuck Taylors, Klosterman gestured and bounded behind the podium with the looseness of a Golden Retriever puppy. His red hair flopped over his forehead as he enthusiastically nodded and grinned, the lower half of his face obscured by a red beard with encroaching gray at the chin.
During the Q&A session, which lasted as long as the reading, he gave equal consideration to questions about love and his life goals as to the inevitable queries about his book's appearance on the teen drama, the OC, and sports, about which Klosterman has encyclopedic knowledge.
Answering one question, he explained that he likes to look at low end consumer culture because people want "... to think about the art that informs their lives... I try to start with things that are the most universal."
The final questions of the night revolved around his decision to wield his intellect for discussions of pop culture instead of weightier subjects. He expained that it's "fun to be smart," and to have intelligent discussions about topics like Motley Cru's choice of clothing. And he thinks that pop culture deserves more credit than we give it: "People use culture to explain their lives to themselves... pop culture is the soundtrack to the world."