e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu



I've written before of my appreciation for rock critic Chuck Klosterman's often deadpan, usually hilarious, voice. Here's a taste:
Led Zeppelin's fourth studio album--1971's unnamed Zoso (so called for the enigmatic symbols on its cover)--is the most famous hard-rock album ever recorded, not to mention a watershed moment for every grizzled old man who's ever carried a bundle of sticks.
Now I can't read that sentence without laughing. I'm putting together the syllabus for my Advanced Exposition class in the fall and one of the assignments is a Pop Culture Narrative paper that asks students to engage with a movie, music video, CD, or similar text that has provided them pleasure or perhaps even become an obsession. Klosterman's great at that particular rhetorical move, writing in a style that's all his about what floats his boat (Kiss, The Real World, the 1980s Celtics-Lakers rivalry, The Wonder Years) and why (his "why" usually involves elaborate theories about what it means for culture to be "overt" and "advanced" followed by admissions that he finds these things pleasurable). As examples of the kind of thinking/writing I want them to do, I'm asking students to read a few pieces by Klosterman, including his track-by-track take on the personal and public significance of Zoso. Also, Sarah Vowell's similarly stimulating piece on her obsession with The Godfather ("Take the Canoli") during her undergrad years. I plan to write alongside students and complete all the assignments. Maybe I'll tackle my obsession with 'Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip' or 'Freaks and Geeks' or the X-Ray Spex's only record.

I can't resist. Here's Klosterman riffing on the popularity of the Pirates of the Caribbean:
Super Bowl XXXVII [was] the first all-pirate championship of the modern era. As you may recall, the Buccaneers defeated the Raiders. This prompted a very thin, moderately intoxicated Londoner named Nona to ask me a question: "Does every American football team have a pirate-oriented nickname?"
Klosterman drops allusions like Dennis Miller, though Chuck skews hipster. Like Dave Barry, Klosterman's funniest moments are tossed-off asides only tangentially connected to his subject matter. And his closest kins, of course, are NPR-types like David Sedaris, the aforementioned Vowell, and Julia Sweeney. His rhetoric and his humor have little in common with most rock critics of the present and past, as Klosterman refuses to idolize the individual rockstar, instead idolizing his own personal relationship with that star's art.

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