The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I WEAR THE BLACK HAT - Grappling With Villains (Real and Imagined) --- Reviewed by WC

I Wear the Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman
Author:  Chuck Klosterman
Publisher:  Scribner
Release Date:  July 9, 2013
Pages:  224

About the Book

Chuck Klosterman has walked into the darkness. As a boy, he related to the cultural figures who represented goodness—but as an adult, he found himself unconsciously aligning with their enemies. This was not because he necessarily liked what they were doing; it was because they were doing it on purpose (and they were doing it better). They wanted to be evil. And what, exactly, was that supposed to mean? When we classify someone as a bad person, what are we really saying (and why are we so obsessed with saying it)? How does the culture of deliberate malevolence operate?

In I Wear the Black Hat, Klosterman questions the modern understanding of villainy. What was so Machiavellian about Machiavelli? Why don’t we see Bernhard Goetz the same way we see Batman? Who is more worthy of our vitriol—Bill Clinton or Don Henley? What was O. J. Simpson’s second-worst decision? And why is Klosterman still haunted by some kid he knew for one week in 1985?Masterfully blending cultural analysis with self-interrogation and imaginative hypotheticals, I Wear the Black Hat delivers perceptive observations on the complexity of the antihero (seemingly the only kind of hero America still creates). I Wear the Black Hat is a rare example of serious criticism that’s instantly accessible and really, really funny. Klosterman continues to be the only writer doing whatever it is he’s doing.

WC's Review
No one argues today that O J Simpson, Ted Bundy, Jerry Sandusky, Joseph Stalin, Mao ZeDong, and the father of all villains, Adolf Hitler, are the most heinous of ne'er do wells. But Bill Clinton, Muhammad Ali, Howard Cosell, Charles Bronson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Wilt Chamberlain? Rogues, perhaps, but hardly villains. It remains a mystery as to what made Lew Alcindor a villain other than his height and his stupid appearance in the movie Airplane.

Author Klosterman appears obsessed with famous folks we both love and hate, claiming in many instances that all villains, as exemplified by Cosell and Ali, knew exactly what they were doing in order to create fame. The secret to success rests in a persona that seems not to give a damn what folks think. Surely the most famous of all high jackers, D B Cooper, exuded confidence and won the support of a stewardess who in those days were hired because of their looks and shapely legs.

Among the fairer gender, Sharon Stone, Taylor Swift, Monica Lewinsky, Linda Tripp, and Sarah Palin make the list of villainous women. Sarah Palin? Oh Sarah, we hardly knew ye, for the press destroyed you before you left Alaska largely because you did not fit their image of a true woman who acts with perpetual vitriol and revenge akin to that of their heroine, Hillary, who for some reason fails to make Klosterman's honor roll. Perhaps the author could not find anything good about this truly villainous woman. Monica left a stained dress to ensure her fame while Stone, of course, forgot to wear underwear.

The section about the fate of Joe Paterno comes closest to nailing the pathetic flaw that destroyed Joe and propelled him into the abyss of villainy. If read just for the insight into Bronson's character Paul Kersey, this slim expose is worth the read. Snidely Whiplash is almost as entertaining as the cartoon.
Klosterman is overly wordy with personalities he is unsure of, but succinct and pithy with ones who are true hero/villains. 4 Stars

              The Author
Image of Chuck Klosterman