Pop culture writer entertains with stories about living through prism of music
By Chris Casey | University Communications
DENVER – It doesn’t matter what kind of art you’re into, said bestselling author Chuck Klosterman, just be engaged and thoughtful about it.
Thinking about his life through the prism of music, specifically 1980s hair metal, is what ultimately launched Klosterman into what he really wanted to do — write books.
Klosterman entertained a nearly full house in Tivoli Turnhalle on Tuesday with a humorous 90-minute talk about randomness, chasing dreams and rock ‘n’ roll. The noon-hour event was presented by the Office of Student Life.
The North Dakota native admitted that pop culture took its sweet time getting to the upper Midwest, but when it did, he soaked it up like a sponge. “I was craving this relationship with art and culture,” he said. “I was craving it so much that I was going to inject it into whatever was in front of me.”
As soon as he graduated from North Dakota University in 1994, he seized on an opportunity to cover the Generation X beat for the Fargo, N.D., newspaper. That’s where randomness came in.
“You really have to realize that chance is going to be a big deal,” said the author of “Fargo Rock City,” “Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs,” and “Killing Yourself to Live.” “The main thing you have to do in your life is be ready when that window opens. Always have your resume ready and updated.”
Klosterman noted that every Generation X-aged journalist in the Midwest applied for that Fargo Forum job, but that he was at the right place at the right time. He then shared amusing anecdotes about how he diligently pursued his dream to write books. He explained that at certain times people in the publishing industry tried to persuade him to change his book or take a different approach.
“If you are an artistic person and want to write a book or make a movie or be a songwriter, it doesn’t matter how successful you are or how many accolades you get from critics,” Klosterman said. “In 50 years, nobody is going to care but you.”
He got the crowd involved by running through a piece of writing that has yet to be published. The piece poses a series of 30 scenarios, each one increasingly improbable and outrageous, and ending with the question: “Do you follow your dream or not follow your dream?” He got the entire room to stand up then asked students to sit when the answer to a scenario was “no.” Eventually, only a handful of people remained standing, even after he posed scenarios such as, “You want to know what prison culture is like and feel 10 years in Supermax should be enough to give you the experience … Do you follow your dream or ….?”
The people remaining standing had various reasons for their steadfastness, from “always follow your passion” to “it’s nobody’s business to tell you what dream to follow.”
Klosterman finished by taking questions and expounding, humorously as ever, on why the music industry has collapsed. “Where did populism go? Because people still want shared experiences. You see them now on the Internet,” he said. “Like the talking dog who wants bacon. These things have kind of replaced the shared meaning that music used to have.”
Alexi Huppenthal, a freshman business major at CU Denver, said Klosterman, who now writes about sports and pop culture for Grantland.com, was funny.
“I like his ideas,” she said. “He brought humor into it. He makes you think of things you wouldn’t normally think about.”
(Photo: Writer Chuck Klosterman talks about the importance of chasing after your dreams.)