Justin Wm. Moyer is a reporter for The Washington Post.
Chuck Klosterman — music and sports nerd from North Dakota turned prolific essayist and Grantland co-founder — has a pretty cool job: His beat is reality writ large.
“By the time the twenty-first century started, the notion of being a rock critic and a sportswriter was no longer awkward (or even contentious), which nicely coincided with the period of my life when I tried to earn a living by doing so,” he writes in “Chuck Klosterman X.” (The title of the book, the author’s 10th, is a nod to Led Zeppelin, a band that favored Roman numerals.) “I’m not fully accredited by either side of the professional equation (sportswriters think I’m too pretentious and music writers don’t think I’m pretentious enough), but I’m able to write about whatever I want, as long as it actually happened.”
This collection of previously published “nonfiction dreams,” as Klosterman puts it, is more than a tome meant for a coffee table in a recording studio or sports injury clinic. His passion for athletic competition, no matter how obscure, is infectious — it’s hard to think of another writer who could make a 30-page, deeply reported essay about a North Dakota junior-college basketball game interesting. And his celebrity profiles transcend profiledom, particularly one that concludes that Taylor Swift is no naif: “Swift can manufacture the kind of mythology that used to happen to Carly Simon by accident.”
But Klosterman is at his best when he’s swimming in deeper waters. One would except nothing less of this former New York Times Magazine Ethicist.
“It’s starting to look like a majority of the NFL is on drugs,” he writes in an essay on football fans’ complicity in supporting a game whose players are sometimes physically and psychologically destroyed by their time on the gridiron. “As a consequence, you will have to make some decisions. Not league commissioner Roger Goodell. You.”
Though Klosterman may be pigeonholed as a guy who thinks too much about Kiss, his 10th book shows he’s something else: a philosopher.
By Chuck Klosterman
444 pp. $27