Wednesday, July 27, 2005


RULE #1 of Cleveland Fight Club: "Journalists don't play nice together in the local sandbox."


I really only have a few scant memories of "Pop Culture poet" Chuck Klosterman before he comes blowing back into town tomorrow night for his book tour stop at Legacy Village promoting "Killing Yourself To Live: 85% of a True Story."

Several years ago, when I was searching to "expand my horizons" outside of the Cleveland market, I attempted to get a freelance job with the Akron Beacon Journal writing movie reviews and the such. When "a friend in the business" gave me a copy of the Arts section to look over, he asked me out of curiousity - from one hack to another - my opinions on Mr. Klosterman and his prose.

The only words I could manage to slur from my mouth like some Society of Professional Journalist stroke victim were these: "Oh, my God - he's such a shitty writer."

I never got the job - and never gave Chuck Klosterman and his "verbal diarrhea" much more of a passing thought (after all, I had my own semi-but-not-really-unique brand of "Cleveland communications crap" to digest and craft, out under the sort-of-intense srutiny of the public eye over Public Square).

And then, about a year ago, I ran into the newly-appointed arts editor of The Beacon Journal who just happened to have the same cravings for buffalo wings and beer that I did at a local tavern. Yeah, go figure! He was also an old Cauldron alumni, so that connection had got us chatting about journalism, Cleveland, and the non-existent CSU football team - well, that and many beers.

As you can probably guess (unless you're hooked up to life support), the subject sooner-or-later swung around to our dear old sourpuss, Chuck Klosterman, and the ABJ's arts editor had this to say on him: "Oh, Chuck - yeah, I knew Chuck - he was a good guy. And I was a really big fan of his writing."

It was right about this time that my face wrinkled up like I had just swallowed a chicken bone, choking, and was subsequently praying for the sweet release of death. All I could manage to say, with the few gasps of air I had left, was this: "Oh, my God, really? But - he's such a shitty writer."

The arts editor from ABJ didn't hold it against me - nor I him - as we all have our meaningless, sometimes biased views on these things that go bump in the journalism night. We expensed our checks - citing we talked "business" - and went on our befuddled ways.

The final chapter in my three-ring Klosterman circus trilogy occured one winter night when my friend Alicia and I were curled up watching an episode of "the o.c." - a guilty pleasure prescribed only by a doctor to be taken in small doses to combat the seasonal disorder effects of the Cleveland winter blues, mind you!

It was on this fateful night that one of the character's on the show, uber-nerd Seth, picked up a copy of "Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs" and proclaimed Klosterman "a literary genius" and "visionary" to Alicia, myself, her rather obnoxious cats, and the entire viewing audience encompassing the FOX broadcasting community.

"What-? What is it?" Alicia asked, responding to my non-pizza-overindulgence groan. "Do you know that guy-? The guy that wrote the book he's reading-? Did you work with him or something-?"

"Yeah, I know him," I whined like I was being nailed to the Orange County crucifix for wayward writers. "I know him-"

"So, what's the problem?" Alicia asked like a modern-day Bambi right before the shotgun blast. "Don't you like him-?"

"Oh, my God," I stammered, doing a head-first swan dive into the nearest pillow to muffle my anguished moans. "He's such a shitty writer."

Obviously, to the untrained eye, this appeared (on the surface) to be a bad case of the ugly green-eyed monster - and over time, and many published Klosterman books, it was! But I decided - being the lesser man in this equation - that I might owe it to Chuck Klosterman to actually read one of his books, before passing judgement on him as a full-fledged author ...just this one time anyway.

But that's the problem. When I read excerpts from "Sex, Lies, and Cocoa Puffs" it was as intolerable as I imagined. His chapter on why "The Empire Strikes Back" was the best film in the Star Wars trilogy was stolen right out from under Kevin Smith's characters in "Clerks." And, worse, Kevin Smith (and his characters) did it BETTER - and funnier!

To defend his thesis, Klosterman goes further to sound like some neurotic nerd stammering away at a local Star Wars convention as he explains that "the Ewoks ruined The Return of the Jedi" ...period ...The End!

Hey, I am as guilty as being a "pop culture pagan" as the next Klosterman, so I would be a hypocrite to fault him for his "Saved by the Bell" essays - but at least have some kind of point if you're prose is going to be written on the 5th grade level!

So, to wash away my fears that I was just some rambling, jealous idiot - blinded by my own half-hatred for Klosterman's success - I was actually happy to be intrigued by the premise of his latest book, "Killing Yourself To Live" about traveling to the final resting places of deceased rock gods. That was ...until I read a few more pages.

Look, the bottom line is this: I used to think I resented Chuck Klosterman in my own little harmless way (and world) because he waxed poetic on the beauties of pop culture and other subjects "about nothing." But the REALITY of it is - after you close the book or shut off the television and grow up just a little bit - there's a lot more to life than these insignificant ramblings - his, mine, or otherwise...

So, hey, I wish Chuck Klosterman the best of luck with his writing career (not that he needs it) because he's fortunate to enjoy the success of being a published author and he deserves all the presitge that brings (whether I like his work, or not - because who really gives a shit!).

Meanwhile, I think I'll give Alicia a call, maybe a few more of my friends, grab some frosty Hoegaardens, and we'll go hang out in a graveyard or something (um, minus the nasty cocaine habit). Perhaps I can read them a few of my well-documented "retarded ramblings" from over the years - hey, it may not be Thomas Pynchon ...but it'll do in a pinch.


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