Musings of a pop culture guru

Pop culture author Chuck Klosterman signs books for students after his lecture on Monday. Klosterman has written four non-fiction books, including the popular Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. His first fiction novel will be released in September.By Laura Mortkowitz

The audience was given something to look forward to at the beginning of Chuck Klosterman’s lecture.

“There is a chance one of you will be verbally attacked during the question and answer period,” he said.

No one was.

The author of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs was explaining how liberated he felt when speaking in the Bart Luedeke Theater on Monday at 10 p.m. It was one of the last appearances Klosterman made before he would leave to teach in Germany for four months. Klosterman discussed his past experiences, his future plans and his theories about various pop culture topics.

For those who had read and enjoyed his books, the lecture was probably just what they expected from the self-proclaimed “pop culture journalist.”

“It sounds kind of like a made-up job,” Klosterman said. “It kind of is.”

From his columns in Esquire to his non-fiction novels to the speech on Monday, he writes and talks about whatever he finds interesting in the hopes that others find it interesting as well.

Klosterman’s books are on varying topics from growing up in North Dakota and listening to hair metal to driving around the country visiting places where rock stars died, while thinking about past girlfriends and listening to the radio. Klosterman’s first fiction novel, Downtown Owl, is due out in September.

As a lecturer, he doesn’t have a set topic. Instead, Klosterman usually allows current topics to guide his discussion. He spent time giving examples of weird occurrences that happened to him and the weird questions students ask.

Understandably, many aspiring writers ask Klosterman about the experience of writing.

“I love the process of writing,” he said. “It’s the only relationship in my life that’s ever been really successful.”

However, a common question that he finds baffling is when students ask if he has any writing rituals.

“I think that’s very amusing; for one, I don’t,” Klosterman said. “I have no rituals whatsoever. I don’t write at any given time of day.”

In fact, he’s so flexible with his writing that he used to write at night but now he writes during the day. Yet, something about the question confuses Klosterman.

“What if I did [have rituals]?” he asked. “Would that person then start doing them? Would they somehow think that that is the key? Would they think, like, ‘Ah ha! It’s magic!’?”

As a warning to writers, his books on popular culture have a “tendency to draw a strange type of person,” he said.

Klosterman gets letters from acid dealers in prison and that people ask him a lot of questions about drugs.

Then, he got to what he called the “lecture part of the lecture.” Specifically, Klosterman’s fears about the future of media.

“I think that even though we are able to understand what’s fake and what’s real, our natural inclination is to still see them as the same,” he said. “And that is why media make people feel alienated and uncomfortable and they don’t exactly know why. Film and television and music and books have made it much more difficult [for] people of our generation to have successful relationships.”

Before television, people compared the idea of married life to those of parents or others around them. Instead of doing that, people today base their idea of relationships in comparison to those seen on movies or television shows.

“How come when I’m bickering with my girlfriend it’s not like Sam and Diane on Cheers?” Klosterman asked. “We have the same fights but it’s not funny, like, it makes us feel weird, it makes us mad.”

People may not understand this is a result of watching television, but it impacts people more than they realize.

“And that’s kind of why I like writing about popular culture,” Klosterman said. “I can sort of explain why these things aren’t just interesting but actually what they’re reflecting about the world. Any good art is something that kind of grows out of the real experience of being alive, and once it’s out there people can inject their experience into it and get something back.”

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