In Sex, Drugs, And Cocoa Puffs, Chuck Klosterman writes that he empathizes with Billy Joel’s complaints of being inexplicably depressed and unimpressed with success. While plenty has changed in pop culture and Klosterman’s own life since his first essay collection was published in 2003, it’s clear from reading Eating The Dinosaur that he still feels ambiguous about his now-even-greater fame.
Of course it’s unlikely he’d ever admit that. Klosterman, a contributing editor for Esquire and a regular writer for The New York Times Magazine (and, full disclosure, an occasional contributor here) admits multiple times in his newest essay collection that he’s lied to journalists about the motivations behind his writing. He also confesses that this behavior hurts no one but himself, and that he’s often depressed and hates himself.
That’s pretty heavy stuff for a book theoretically meant to be funny pop commentary. The book feels more mature than Sex, Drugs, And Cocoa Puffs, while still keeping to Klosterman’s signature style of making absurd statements like “Britney Spears is paid less than she deserves,” and going on to justify his claims. But gone are the unrepentantly juvenile anecdotes and bizarre interviews.
They’ve been replaced with puzzlement about why he grants so many interviews, and analysis of other celebrities’ discomfort with how success has changed their lives. When he writes about how In Utero is an expression of Kurt Cobain’s guilt over Nirvana’s success, or how Ira Glass feels the popularity of This American Life has made him a less happy person, he’s also talking about himself.
These dark, introspective parts are scattered throughout Eating The Dinosaur, but they’re only a fraction of it. It doesn’t mess with a successful formula—in many ways, the only difference between Sex, Drugs and Dinosaur is the specific examples. Klosterman uses Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window to discuss voyeurism instead of MTV’s The Real World. He’s still fascinated with serial killers. His work is still peppered with unexplained references only sensible to someone as music-savvy as him, as well as allusions that will be just as confusing in 10 years. But the end product seems likely to age better. It isn’t a low-culture manifesto, it’s a personal one.