Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I Wear the Black Hat

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Today’s Nonfiction post is on I Wear the Black Hat Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined) by Chuck Klosterman. It is 214 pages including an index at the end. The cover is black with the title and the author’s name in white and a black top hat with a curly mustache and goatee in the middle. The intended reader is adult and I think that adults would get the most of is. There is language, talk of sex, talk of violence and other adult things talked about in an adult manner. The narration style moves from first person of Klosterman when he is expressing opinions to third person when he telling a story. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the dust jacket- Chuck Klostermann has walked into the darkness. As a boy, related to the cultural figures who represented goodness- but as an adult, he found himself unconsciously aligning with their enemies. This was not because he necessarily liked what they were doing; it was was because they were doing it on purpose (and they were doing it better). They wanted to be evil. And what, exactly, was that supposed to mean? When we classify someone as a bad person, what are we really saying (and why are we so obsessed with saying it)? How does the culture of deliberate malevolence operate?
In I Wear the Black Hat, Klosterman questions the modern understanding of villainy. What was so Machiavellian about Machiavelli? Why don’t we see Bernhard Goetz is the same way we see Batman? Who is more worthy of our vitriol- Bill Clinton or Don Henley? What was O.J. Simpson’s second-worst decision? And why is Klosterman still haunted by kid he knew for week in 1985?
Masterfully blending cultural analysis with self-interrogation and imaginative hypotheticals, I Wear the Black Hat delivers perceptive observations on the complexity of the antihero (seemingly the only kind of hero America still creates). I Wear the Black Hat is a rare example of serious criticism that’s instantly accessible and really, really funny. Klosterman continues to be the only writer doing whatever it is he’s doing.

Review- I do not know anything about or even heard of Chuck Klosterman before hearing any NPR interview with him about this book. So I read this book in a vacuum. I know only what Kolsterman tells in this book. I enjoyed this book. I like criticism (I blame being an English major in undergrad). But I did not really find this book funny. Maybe I am just too serious a person but nothing was really funny in either a haha sense or a laugh out loud sense to me. But this was an interesting book about how as a society we see villains and even how villains are made. I like villains. I like villains to be bad. I want to see them rise than I want to see them fall. I have said many times when reading a book or watching a show that the villain needs to be the most interesting person in the scene. My personal view about that is this- the hero is good, should be good no matter what. But the villain needs more than just be evil or bad. The villain needs to be charming. The villain needs to be seductive. Klosterman never says that but that is okay with me. He talks about things in a bigger way. He is interested in why someone is a villain and when do they cross that line. This book is definitely is a must read if you like thinking about things in the abstract.

I give this book a Five out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I borrowed this book from my local library.