Reader’s Corner: ‘The Nineties’

Is it everything you ever wanted to remember about Pavement, O.J., or Saved by the Bell? Not quite, but that is okay. Chuck Klosterman is after larger game.

My review of The Nineties ran in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Klosterman tries to look past the “grunge cartoon” take on the decade. This is welcome, given how often cultural chroniclers reduce periods to worn cliches. He knows that just muddling together Kurt Cobain, the O.J. Simpson trial, Biosphere 2, Boris Yeltsin, Bush v. Gore, Timothy McVeigh, “Friends,” and the “Clear Craze” (Crystal Pepsi, Zima) produces no greater understanding. This is partially due to Klosterman’s somewhat self-satirizing Gen-X suspicion of certainties. He is most discerning when parsing the tortured relationship his generation had in the Nineties to authenticity and popularity: Alanis Morissette “was successful because of her honesty, but anyone that successful had to be lying”…

You can read an excerpt here.

And for some appropriate musical accompaniment, Ben Folds:

In Books: ‘Against Football’

(Library of Congress)
(Library of Congress)

Steve Almond is one of those overly talented writers whose style ranges from the literary short story to pop cultural/ethical commentary in the Chuck Klosterman vein. So, in one sense, the fact that Almond has written a book on sports shouldn’t be surprising. On the other hand, it’s a passionate work about a subject he cares deeply about. That’s the thing about football fanatics; they hide in plain sight.

themillions-cover1My essay on his newest book, “To Hell with All That Guilty Love: On Steve Almond’s ‘Against Football’,” ran in The Millions yesterday:

Like most of us, Almond thought he was immune from modern sports mania’s entanglements. We all know (and some of us resemble) the type, eyes scouring for the nearest screen showing SportsCenter, phones lit up by fantasy scores and trash-talk, ears always full of the angry drone of sports talk radio. No matter the mountains Almond would move to watch his Raiders lose time after catastrophic time, he thought he could stay above the fray.

In the preface, Almond describes a newspaper article he pasted to the wall of his office, which contains a quote from running back Kevin Faulk after he took a head-rattling hit. Faulk’s words were clearly those of a man who had suffered a significant blow to the brain. Almond writes, “I thought it was funny”…

Here’s Almond debating football with the great Greg Easterbrook at the Politics and Prose bookstore:

On the Tube: ‘Louis C.K.: Oh My God’

Louis C.K.: "I like to think I'm a nice person, but I don't know — a lot of it is context"
Louis C.K.: “I like to think I’m a nice person, but I don’t know — a lot of it is context”

So how long has everyone known about Louis C.K.? You try to be a culturally aware person, up on the latest things, familiar with the trending performers, and so on and so forth. But every now and again one or more slips through the cracks and you just … miss it. Then, you’re behind the curve, and the more people go on about him or her, you figure, well, I’ll get around to it eventually. And then you do. And then you realize … what took me so long?

louisck-ohmygod-poster-200Case in point, Louis C.K.’s latest special, Oh My God. If you read my review of it that ran on PopMatters yesterday, you might be forgiven for thinking that this particular writer had been following this guy’s career for years, when in fact it was a very recent development, and long overdue.

Anyways, it’s a great hour of comedy, here’s part of my review:

Whenever Chuck Klosterman gets tired of writing the New York Times’ “Ethicist” column, the editors there should consider throwing out a feeler to Louis C.K. They might have to put up with a few gags about the Holocaust and child murder, but he’s actually a good fit for the position. His media profile is that of the controversial shock-comic who leaps into territory that might daunt Sarah Silverman. But what’s always been most interesting about C.K. is his quaintly earnest examination of morality and life’s purpose, with the occasional joke about cannibalism…

Here’s the promo: