As I recently wrote, Chuck Klosterman (essayist, pop culture observer, and all-around badass writer) is my new (albeit unsuspecting) writing mentor, but he might also turn out to be some sort of sarcastic xen guru as well. His words have really stuck with me; one set in particular.
Allow me to quote at length from Chuck Klosterman’s Eating the Dinosaur:
“There’s one kind of writing that’s always easy: Picking out something that’s obviously stupid and reiterating how stupid it obviously is. This is the lowest form of criticism, easily accomplished by anyone. And for most of my life, I have tried to avoid this. In fact, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time searching for the underrated value in ostensibly stupid things. I understand Turtle’s motivation and I would have watched Medellin in the theater. I read Mary Worth every day for a decade. I’ve seen Korn in concert three times and liked them once. I went to The Day After Tomorrow on opening night. I own a very expensive robot that doesn’t do anything. I am open to the possibility that everything has metaphorical merit, and I see no point in sardonically attacking the most predictable failures within any culture.”
This is wonderful from a writing perspective, if nothing else because he literally could have chosen anything from his anecdotally-filled life as a critic, but these perfectly explain his point. However, moving beyond the mechanics, this passage is also kind of genius.
Like Klosterman, I also despise reiterating stupidity, especially for audience approval. It’s like cherry-picking extremist quotes from the political spectrum to gain support for your own cause. And it absolutely infuriates me when this is done with humor.
Once, on my old blog (which was awesome, by the way, but also not entirely appropriate for a Website that also holds my curriculum vita…and my name), I commented on one of the one brazillion Internet top 10 lists (most kind of blend together) where the author made multiple jokes about John Tesh music in the guise of being extreme. Here is what I wrote:
“I hate this: People have the chance to slam someone down and, instead, they wuss out and go with a safe joke. The result is a slew of jokes that sound as controversial as a Jay Leno monologue. Take Gigli…please. There, see how stupid and lame I sound? Are the rabid Gigli fans going to attack me? Of course not–it’s a safe joke. However, if I were to replace Gigli with an honest response like Episode III or LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring, now we’re cooking with butane. This guy could have picked any band he hated (the more popular, the better), but he didn’t and somehow managed to sound even lamer than he already is.”
I feel strongly in this aspect, but at the same time I can’t shake Klosterman’s approach to his writing (and, most likely, his life). He uses practically everything as a way of examining an artist, a concept, a perceived understanding, or even society. His statements about movies are not based in anger and hate, but rather from a technical side or story construction.
I have to believe that Klosterman hates more than just laugh tracks, but I’m sure it’s nothing on the level of my pet peeves. On the one hand, I love caring passionately about most things (one way or the other) because it means I care and I’m paying attention. Then again, at what point does my reactionary response become…well…moot because it’s so clearly reactionary.
Much to ponder…