Chuck Klosterman recently wrote his first novel - Downtown Owl - that title to be reviewed rather favorably in these pages. But this new collection of cultural essays on everything from Ralph Nader to ABBA doesn't rate as highly. In these, the author spins his sometimes specious and mostly confusing arguments about the world of culture. You have to read Eating the Dinosaur very slowly, because it usually takes multiple scans of a page to gain any type of understanding about what he's talking about.
Even then, he tends to get things wrong. In the opening essay titled "Something Instead of Nothing," he talks about the unique and symbiotic relationship of the interview. He says that it is much easier being the interviewee rather than the interviewer. Wrong. The interviewee is a passive object. He or she simply sits there at the end of a couch or on the other end of a telephone line and responds to a question. The interviewer instigates all the of action. As a professional, the interviewer has probably engaged in research and read the books written by his subject or listened to the music recorded by him/her.
After all, when you meet a stranger what's easier - asking questions or being asked?
At times, Klosterman is funny, but mostly he is engaged in circular arguments that could have been presented in one sentence instead of 20 pages. In a chapter titled "Fail" that is ostensibly about the Unabomber but which is really about technology, he writes: "The only people who think the Internet is a calamity are people whose lives have been hurt by it; the only people who insist the Internet is wonderful are those who need it to give their life meaning." Ridiculous. There are a lot of people - myself included - who think the Internet is wonderful because it represents a wonderful tool.
It doesn't give my life meaning; it simply makes my life easier by providing me with more information.
It's almost as if Chuck is arguing just to hear himself argue, because many times he argues both sides of an argument. He'll argue one opinion, insert a "but," and defend the other side.
Klosterman is a terrific writer but many of these essays leave you more confused than you were before you read them.