Klosterman may or may not have gotten his hands around Evil, but he has a great handle on punditry: make big statement -- bigger than he can handle --Klosterman may or may not have gotten his hands around Evil, but he has a great handle on punditry: make big statement -- bigger than he can handle -- and pursue rabidly, incessantly, with humor and controversy always in mind. He reminds me of another polarizing writer, Bill Simmons of Grantland and ESPN, who is both often entertaining and unusually irritating. His efficient and rhythmic thesis ("the villain is the person who knows the most but cares the least") sparks an intriguing ride, but the book is wildly uneven.
Clearly a smart guy, Klosterman scores with interesting uses of philosophy and Batman (70) and Linda Tripp (127), and the dip into postmodernism adds too ("Necessity used to be the mother of invention, but then we ran out of things that were necessary. The postmodern mother of invention is desire; we don't need anything, so we only create what we want" ). That's classic Klosterman: boldly assertive, risking overstatement, but thought-provoking. The Batman discussion -- married insightfully to a (weaker) section on Bernard Goetz -- also hits with the question "Why are qualities we value in the unreal somehow verboten in reality?" (73).
Less successful is the rest of the Clinton-Lewinsky chapter, including a dopey reach that attempts to rope Hillary into his point (Clinton is not talking, Hillary would talk "if she had anything to say"  -- wha?). Most egregious is the very Simmons-y chapter on music and especially the Eagles, which was his most indulgent, least insightful piece, which also came very early in the book and thus almost made me put it down before I got to the better parts. And why do these writers dump fifty-line paragraphs on us? Seriously: organize, transition...don't just babble.
In the final accounting, I love the topic and am not convinced by the know/care thesis, which is just oversimplified. The writer, who came into my consciousness with his Esquire essay about his archenemy, on which he follows up admirably here. He is a good thinker and usually engaging in prose, even if he's not as funny as he thinks he is. Sounds like punditry. Sounds like we in the Internet age are going to have to get used to it....more
Quite an experience: almost certainly the most erudite, uncompromising essays I have read. Davenport wears his erudition -- even abstruseness -- likeQuite an experience: almost certainly the most erudite, uncompromising essays I have read. Davenport wears his erudition -- even abstruseness -- like a badge, but without the arrogance that one would expect. He's an elitist in the best, most productive way. He alludes without bothering to translate, effortlessly recalls sparkling anecdotes, ranges as widely as anyone I've read (but definitely hunkers on his few touchstones: Joyce, Tchelitchew, Brakhage, Zukhovsky, the Dogon, Lascaux, Marianne Moore, Olson, especially Pound), and reminisces uncompromisingly.
He proposes theories at a fast and furious pace. His style is to assert, not to wonder. Most of these are wise, although a few seem overly ambitious, especially when unelaborated-upon. I enjoy his writing, which is forceful and crisp.
But it's intellectualism that makes this hum. Not a trek for the uncurious to tackle, it was (to me) incredibly tiring and humbling...but well worth the voyage....more