Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Eating the Dinosaur

I saw on YouTube this interview with director Terry Gilliam from around the time his adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas had come out. When asked if he had been familiar with the book before getting involved with the making of the movie, Gilliam said yes and his reaction had been something along the lines "Wow! Finally someone is saying what I'm feeling!" I had a very similar reaction to reading Chuck Klosterman's Eating the Dinosaur (2009), although I highly doubt I'll be able to turn it into a movie in twenty-some odd years.

Eating the Dinosaur is a collection of essays covering a variety of modern topics, mostly through the filter of pop culture and entertainment. Through examples about ABBA, Mad Men, the NFL, Rear Window, Nirvana, Pepsi, Garth Brooks, AC/DC, Ralph Sampson, Weezer, time travel, and more, Klosterman examines what it means to experience life in today's age of hyper-soaked, hyper-speed media and ironic detachment. While there's no overarching narrative connecting the essays, I wouldn't call it stream-of-conscious; I detect careful, point-by-point analysis and consideration on Klosterman's part.

The way Klosterman weaves all these different entertainment icons into his essays is most impressive. Just by examining, for a example, a band, its reputation, its output, its legacy, and everything that falls within its sphere of influence so to speak, Klosterman finds or reveals rather profound ways of looking at life or at least people choose to view it.

I'm trying to remember how I first heard of this book. A while back, I found a piece of paper in a bag of mine with the title written on it (in my handwriting), and when I went to Borders just before it shut down, I found this on a special markdown price. Now that I've read the book, I believe it must have been in a journalism class in which we might have discussed the first chapter. Klosterman opens the book asking why people answer questions and agree to be interviewed. As a reporter myself, I responded this section greatly; it's what I do for a living: ask questions. Why do people answer questions from a stranger about themselves? To have their stories told; it's the only way people are granted access to another's mind.

Eating the Dinosaur is humorous but not with its deeper, more thoughtful to it. If anyone were to ask me, I'd say this book is the most accurate and entertaining exploration of the collective American psyche today. It's meant to be read and thought about.

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