Eating the Dinosaur

by Tom Ingram

I shut the book on David Mamet after the point in Writing in Restaurants where he calls all the women in his life bitches and brags about making fun of a stranger whose best friend has just died. I might finish it later, I might not. I really can’t see much point in continuing. If you’re going to write something reprehensible, you should at least have the decency to be entertaining, if only by accident.

As an antidote of sorts, I picked up Chuck Klosterman’s Eating the Dinosaur. I read another one of his books a few months ago and enjoyed it, so this was a pretty safe bet that paid off. The great thing about Klosterman is that it’s all bullshit. I mean “bullshit” in the strictest technical sense, of course: a form of discourse that is indifferent to the truth. He’s up front about this–he remarks on several occasions that (for his purposes at least) what actually happened isn’t nearly as important as what we think happened.

Half his theses are ridiculous stretches, such as in one essay where he compares Kurt Cobain to David Koresh. This gives him free rein to say pretty much anything, and the results are brilliant. Even though you know Cobain and Koresh have nothing in common, the attempt at comparison is instructive, and if you squint, you can kind of see what he’s getting at.

Klosterman examines the narratives we don’t think are worthy of examination, and the ones we sometimes forget are narratives at all. Advertising–and the curious way it works even though by all rights it shouldn’t. Interviews–why does anybody do them? Sports. Actually, there’s quite a lot about sports in here, more than in Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. At one point, Klosterman actually tells non-football fans to skip ahead to the next section. I kept reading for awhile before taking his advice–to someone like me who doesn’t have even a vague understanding of football, it’s all gibberish.

Anyway, if you haven’t heard of Klosterman before, consider reading Eating the Dinosaur or Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. They’re both fascinating reads for the modern pop culture-savvy person.