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I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling With Villains (Real and Imagined)

3.65  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,378 Ratings  ·  850 Reviews
From New York Times bestselling author, “one of America’s top cultural critics” (Entertainment Weekly), and “The Ethicist” for The New York Times Magazine, comes a new book of all original pieces on villains and villainy in popular culture.Chuck Klosterman has walked into the darkness. As a child, he rooted for conventionally good characters like wide-eyed Luke Skywalker i ...more
Hardcover, 214 pages
Published July 9th 2013 by Scribner
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Shawn Ritchie
Chuck's a lil' too far up his own asshole with this one. I've greatly enjoyed his previous non-fiction works, mostly because he hasn't tried to imbue his criticism of _pop_ epehmera with much in the way of greater meaning. It's pop culture, his books should be tasty little snacks that recall the specific period they are writing about, and that's it.

THIS collection of pop culture essays, though, has a theme. A rather muddled one about the nature of villainy and how our culture views its villains
...more
Jordan
Aug 20, 2013 Jordan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The guy never ceases to amaze me. Yeah, the book is pretty good. But before I get to that, what struck me as I was reading it was -- how in the world does he have the time to know as much as he does? Like Seinfeld, he’s a show about nothing, but really, everything. He could talk you to death (and do so intelligently) about TV, movies, books, sports, or whatever, and be completely credible. Because, he’s apparently seen and listened to all that there is to be seen or listened to, and has read eve ...more
Peter Derk
Aug 25, 2013 Peter Derk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: petestopof2013
I tried to buy this in a hip Chicago bookstore, and the clerk there was telling me that they were sold out. She then proceeded to explain to me that she didn't like Chuck Klosterman and why.

I couldn't help but think what a weird move this was, explaining to me why she didn't like an author rather than asking me something like "Do you want to order one? From our BOOKSTORE. Where we survive by bringing books from outside, putting them in here, and then forcing people to give us money to take the b
...more
El_kiablo
I first encountered Chuck Klosterman's writing when I was college aged, and at the time I really enjoyed his work, because I've always liked conversational writing and his essays were similar to conversations I might be having with my media-saturated friends. A few years went by, however, and I became less interested in having those sort of abstract conversations because they often seemed like they went nowhere; there were so many exceptions to every rule and so many rules for every exception th ...more
greebs
Jan 28, 2015 greebs rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, funny, 2013
I'm a big Chuck Klosterman fan, from SPIN to many of his books on pop culture. He's started writing novels to (in my opinion) mixed success ... so I was glad when I saw that he's releasing a new book of essays. It comes out in July but I was able to get a galley copy, which I eagerly gobbled up over the Memorial Day weekend.

I Wear the Black Hat is an analysis of villains - real and imagined. From Darth Vader to N.W.A. to, of course, Adolf Hitler (his essay is mostly about how he HAS to write ab
...more
Kay
Aug 13, 2013 Kay rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am ordinarily a fan of Chuck Klosterman's but I didn't particularly care for this book. Honestly, in many ways it felt lazy. This is, I suppose, what happens when you're demanded to reproduce pretty much the exact same type of book over and over again. Often throughout the book, Klosterman jerks the reader out of the thread of whatever thought he's presenting to reveal a bit too much of his thought process. As someone whose day job it is to see rough drafts, I don't really need to see behind t ...more
Benoit Lelievre
Nov 15, 2014 Benoit Lelievre rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My appreciation of Chuck Klosterman's writing is both sincere and self-serving: he writes about things I also care about (although I'll admit he influenced my perception of culture), he uses a language I understand very well and doesn't seem burdened by the academic obsession to be objectively right. Reading his books give me analytics superpowers, although I can't seem to sustain them without being intellectually fed. In a couple weeks, I won't be able to write reviews like this anymore.

In many
...more
Sam Quixote
Jul 04, 2013 Sam Quixote rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chuck Klosterman looks at the character type of the villain, both in real world figures and imagined, and surmises that a villain is someone who knows the most and cares the least. It sounds like a simple idea but becomes more complex as you think about it. He uses a number of examples to highlight his point and one of the first is Niccolo Machiavelli. Machiavelli, if you know him at all, is famous for writing The Prince, a book about political theory. The Prince is controversial as it makes Mac ...more
Edward Swalwell
Aug 14, 2013 Edward Swalwell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This study of pop-culture villainy (and evil) is a mixed bag.

A strong introduction and a conclusion that rises gradually to a sublimely satisfying end make up for a meandering middle, where the book seems to lose focus and spend an inordinate amount of time reviewing the author's musical taste and early memories of popular culture. Read as a book, I'm not sure the author ever truly makes his point (indeed, by the end I'm fairly sure he's convinced himself that he's not made his point) - but read
...more
Christopher
Aug 12, 2013 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"It's natural to think of one's own life as a novel (or a movie or a play), and within that narrative we are always the central character. Thoughtful people try to overcome this compulsion, but they usually fail (in fact, trying makes it worse). In a commencement speech at Kenyon College, David Foster Wallace argued that conquering the preoccupation with self is pretty much the whole objective of being alive - but if we are to believe Wallace succeeded at this goal, it must be the darkest succes ...more
Kelly
Jan 01, 2014 Kelly rated it liked it
Okay, so...not exactly what I was expecting. Look back and you'll see I have laughed, screamed, and fallen in complete adoration over his past works, but this one is just "eh".

In one of the essays Klosterman talks about how all comediennes ultimately want to be taken seriously, fulfill more roles other than the ones that made them famous and that is exactly what's happened here. Which is not to say Klosterman has ever considered himself a stand up comic, but lets be honest here, most of essays
...more
Gavin
May 15, 2014 Gavin rated it really liked it
Read it all in one sitting! I got this at Christmas, and you'd think I hadn't wanted to read it or something, but I just barely started the first chapter during holidays. I finally had some time lately (and no comics on my pile!) so I went back and started fresh.

Klosterman has been one of my faves since I read 'Killing Yourself to Live' nearly a decade ago. Oddly, I remember not liking his SPIN columns, but that's probably because I was in High School and I like to think I was a bit smarter afte
...more
Josh
Aug 09, 2013 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have never read any of Klosterman's material (apart from a small article that accompanied my Dazed & Confused DVD). I just thought that I would find him a quasi-David Foster Wallace-type. However, the concept of his new book intrigued me and eventually I found myself hooked in. This book is fantastic. Klosterman brandishes his pop culture chops in a case study on what makes a villain a villain. He ranges from fictional characters to historical figures to pro athletes to celebrities. No one ...more
Ellie
Jul 12, 2014 Ellie rated it it was amazing
So much to love and learn in this book, Klosterman the inimitable strikes again. I think the best way to review this is to give you a few of his own words and you should trust me that the surrounding text makes these quotables even better. "If a villain is the one who knows the most and cares the least..." (p. 23)

"When considering the vigilante, the way we think about fiction contradicts how we feel about reality. Which should not be unanticipated or confusing, yet somehow always is." (p. 65)

And
...more
Sue Smith
Mar 06, 2014 Sue Smith rated it really liked it
Geez I wish Goodreads would introduce half stars - my rating would actually be 3.5 and I didn't want to appear 'villainous' or stingy and give it a three. So it's a glass half-full for me and I upped the ante to 4 stars.

My perceived good deed of the day and I'm feeling alright about that! Ha!

This was an interesting little book on short stories on the authors reflections on what makes a person a villain. Or, for that matter, what is the actual definition of a villain and if it is a universal defi
...more
Molly
Jul 23, 2013 Molly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this book, Chuck Klosterman grapples with our attitude towards villains. Why, for example, do people enjoy Batman as a fictional character even when they would consider anyone who lived like Batman in real life insane? Why are people so offended by the fact that O.J. Simpson wrote a book called If I Did It? How do TV shows like Weeds and Breaking Bad get away with depicting drug dealers as sympathetic characters? Why did Bill Clinton come away from the Monica Lewinsky scandal looking better t ...more
Ben
Aug 01, 2013 Ben rated it liked it
How do you properly rate an uneven book of essays? Do you assign it the star rating of the high points, the value it most consistently hits or just knock off marks for the worst parts?

First the bad. For a book that's 199 pages, there's some stuff in here that just doesn't work. Admittedly, some of it might be because it just doesn't culturally resonate. For example, the chapter on Andrew Dice Clay and the changing of political correctness in the country just doesn't hang together. The chapter on
...more
Kelly Woodward
Jul 03, 2013 Kelly Woodward rated it really liked it
Shelves: edelweiss
I’ve been reading Chuck Klosterman since his column in Spin magazine. I loved how he had so much to say about things I’d never even thought of before. (And I think a lot.) One of my favorite articles was about how The Darkness would never be sufficiently appreciated in the US because, in America, bands can either be good or funny (but not both). Maybe I’m not a true American, then, because I love bands that have that perfect blend of talent and humor — like The Darkness, yes, or Flight of the Co ...more
April
Oct 27, 2013 April rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a coup de foudre to me: I felt like I had be slammed by a wave of genius. This is the first I've ever read or even heard of Klosterman, but I will certainly be reading his other works. To say this is a collection of philosophical essays using pop cultural as a touchstone would be correct and succinct, but would also not be the whole truth. Klosterman writes paragraphs I have to read three times and then stop and think about. He states things so true and suddenly obvious, although y ...more
Gregg
Jul 18, 2013 Gregg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bad-people
Several years ago, I was home with the flu and stuck in front of the television, watching cable (which my wife would discontinue shortly afterwards), glued to an eight-hour marathon of "Teen Mom." Watching the girls struggle with their children wasn't the real horrifying part (although it was horrifying enough, especially when watching Farah yell at her mom about how important it was to go out with her friends and leave the kid behind for a while). What was really horrifying was watching their n ...more
Tung
Feb 03, 2015 Tung rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Klosterman is a pop-culture journalist, and in this book, he attempts to understand how and why we (as a culture) view (or not view) people as villains. He writes about surefire villains (Hitler), about people who should be viewed as villains but are not (e.g. Bill Clinton and Muhammad Ali), and about people who are viewed as villains but should not be (e.g. Julian Assange). There was a chapter or two that I felt he forced into his villain theme, but overall there is a coherency in these essays ...more
Matthew
Aug 20, 2014 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wandered into an airport bookstore on a layover. I was intrigued by the cover, interested in the theme, and finally sold on the chapter titles (such as "Villains Who Are Not Villains"). It didn't hurt that it looked like the book would contain a good deal of humor while still being intelligent nonfiction.

I definitely enjoyed this book. I'll have to go check out other books by the author.

I was surprised that so much of the book was about nonfiction persons rather than fictional villains, but th
...more
Sara
Feb 06, 2014 Sara rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book, but had to give it three stars because I ended the book less excited about it than I was when I started. The three stars are as much my fault as Chuck's. I was hoping this would be a discussion of the character structure of villains in general rather than an examination of what makes one person a villain over another in popular culture. There's nothing wrong with his examination--it's thoughtful and often funny--it just didn't quite offer me what I was hoping for when I star ...more
Amina |  PAPER/PLATES
Mar 31, 2014 Amina | PAPER/PLATES rated it really liked it
Full post on PAPER/PLATES: http://www.paperplatesblog.com/2014/0...

In I Wear the Black Hat, Chuck Klosterman raises provocative questions about why we root for the people that we do. His fascinating, insightful, and sometimes troubling work exposes common hypocrisy, double standards, and complete irrationality. You’ll not only be entertained, you’ll be a bit disturbed about your own proclivities for nonsensical sympathies.

16130377 Chuck Klostermans I Wear The Black Hat & Spiced Glazed Carro
...more
Owen Doherty
Feb 24, 2014 Owen Doherty rated it liked it
Look. This isn't a great book. It's a series of essays that are stapled together and loosely related to the premise of evil and villainy. Some essays are wonderful -- insightful about pop culture amongst other things and the pages fly by. Other essays are forced. Page 36 for example was an entire page about Taylor Swift consisting of one paragraph. The essays that were the best were the ones in which the word "I" appeared sparingly. I've enjoyed Chuck Klosterman previously, and like his work on ...more
Ben
Dec 31, 2013 Ben rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, essays
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mister
Dec 29, 2013 Mister rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star
I Wear the Black-ish Hat

My best friend Melanie gave me this book as a Christmas present. It was very sweet of her and really demonstrated that she probably knows me better than any other person. Prior to this, I had only read one book by Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. I enjoyed that book a lot but soon discovered that Klosterman seemed primarily interested in music culture. I have nothing against music, but I consider myself almost entirely out of the loop in that regard and figured th
...more
Mariano Hortal
Publicado en http://lecturaylocura.com/i-wear-the-...

Este es un libro que, muy probablemente, no veremos traducido a nuestro querido castellano. El artífice es el grandísimo Chuck Klosterman, escritor norteamericano y crítico musical que se caracteriza especialmente por intentar dilucidar los mecanismos que rigen ese tan difuso mundo en el que vivimos, particularmente el de la sociedad norteamericana. Quizá por este motivo, la utilización de múltiples referencias autóctonas disminuye el interés
...more
Andrea
I found this book while randomly wandering the audiobook section of a library branch that is nowhere near my house and that I never really go to but what a wonderful bit of serendipity! I started listening to this one and laughed so much that I made my husband start listening too. Over the next month we worked on this one together when we were in the car together and laughed our butts off most of the way. The audiobook is read by the author, a setup I rather prefer. I see from the reviews that s ...more
Kellie
"The villain is the person who knows the most but cares the least."

I've liked Chuck Klosterman for years. Hipster tendencies though he may have (especially towards the beginning of his career), I've read nearly all of his books of essays and both of his novels and I've enjoyed all of them. To varying degrees, of course. I Wear the Black Hat has got a slightly different feel to it. His other essay books are kind of a hodgepodge of articles, bouncing around from music to sports to politics. This b
...more
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Charles John "Chuck" Klosterman is an American pop-culture journalist, critic, humorist, and essayist. He was raised on a farm near Wyndmere, North Dakota and graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1994. After college he was a journalist in Fargo, North Dakota and later an arts critic for the Akron Beacon Journal in Akron, Ohio, before moving to New York City in 2002.

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“The villain is the person who knows the most but cares the least.” 33 likes
“It has always been my belief that people are remembered for the sum of their accomplishments but defined by their singular failure.” 23 likes
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