8.15.2016

Chuck Klosterman: But What If We're Wrong?


Chuck Klosterman was one of the first authors I really started getting into as a whole. I started reading him when I graduated high school (2009) and was lucky that he had a lot of material already out. I’ve only ever had to wait for The Visible Man (2011), I Wear the Black Hat (2013), and his newest book, But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past (2016). Honestly, while I usually pick up anything new Klosterman writes the day it is released, I had some reservations about this book after reading a brief plot synopsis. The book is entirely theoretical. It basically aims to explore whether or not we will be right about the things we hold as absolutes today in the “not-so-distant future.”




Honestly, while I usually pick up anything new Klosterman writes the day it is released, I had some reservations about this book after reading a brief plot synopsis. The book is entirely theoretical. It basically aims to explore whether or not we will be right about the things we hold as absolutes today in the “not-so-distant future.”The book is sort of what you would expect from Klosterman. It’s a non-fiction, essay-structured piece that deals with a lot of ideas most people would think up while stoned (e.g. what television shows will really be remembered, will we stop playing football altogether). I think what this book lacks is anything overtly personal - which is what I love most about Klosterman’s writing. The only piece of information I was able to take away about his personal life in 288 pages was that his father passed away. This might seem like a bizarre criticism, but my favourite Klosterman book is Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story, which is DEEPLY personal. So you can see why I was a little bummed.

I’m also kind of embarrassed to admit that some of the essays were over my head. A LOT of this book deals with physics… He interviews Neil deGrasse Tyson and Brian Greene quite a bit, both who are pretty famous for making science accessible to regular people, but still…

The standout essay for me was definitely “A quaint and curious volume of (destined-to-be) forgotten lore,” where Klosterman wonders which author we will give the Moby Dick goldstar (shameless plug: stay tuned for our Moby Dick book club in November!!!) in the future. He starts the essay by creating this pyramid of “the greatest authors of our time” where Philip Roth is at the very top because of his massive career-long success (i.e. Pultizer winner), and then further down we have Jonathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace as widely-known “great” authors, and down even further is Dave Eggers, classified as a “soon to be recognized as all-time great.”

I pretty much loved that chapter for the simple reason that it involved a lot of pop-culture name droppings - a staple of Klosterman’s past books -  and it made me feel smart… Overall, probably my least favourite of his books. But again, only because it isn't very personal and I didn't like the subject matter to begin with.