I’ve just finished a terrific new book, the latest from Chuck Klosterman: ‘Eating The Dinosaur’. It’s one of those rare books that makes me want to start all over from page one and read through again. In fact, I may do just that.
I picked up my signed copy about a year ago at a reading in New York City, along with a young friend who is a similar oddball- a metal fan with an equal appreciation of other genres of music and good books. After waiting in line to get our paperbacks signed, I had her go first, then introduce me as though she were my publicist. There were a couple reasons for this…
First, I’m just not that comfortable presenting myself and spouting my ‘resume,’ to anyone, especially someone whose work I admire. At the same time, it seemed silly to not let him know my musical background. After all, he’s someone who has written extensively about rock and pop music. Shouldn’t he at least know that his work is meaningful to someone who exists in, if not the exact same same constellation, at least the same galaxy?
Chuck surprised us both by being:
A. Very aware of my band and as a result, excited to meet me
B. Tremendously apologetic for never mentioning Testament in one of his books
This completely threw me off. I was already a bit tongue tied- I’m immune to meeting famous musicians, actors and comedians, but for some reason, I regress to adolescent shyness in the presence of my favorite authors (just ask Erica Jong and Anthony Bourdaine). I couldn’t think of much to say, other than telling him an apology wasn’t necessary, which it wasn’t. I knew he’d been a ‘glam metal’ fan who’d morphed into a ‘modern rock’ critic effectively expounding upon the significance of bands like Weezer, Pavement and Radiohead, then risking indy cred, shocking his peers and earning metal points by eloquently and rigorously defending the type of groups that had gotten him into rock music in the first place: bands like Kiss, Guns’N'Roses and Motley Crue. Clearly thrash metal, or jazz guitar, for that matter, had never really been his thing. So what?
There are different types of fans, even within the genre(s) of metal- some who prefer a fast beat and growls and screams and others who prefer a driving beat or power ballad and melodic vocals. Some gravitate more towards the instrumentalism of the music while others are more drawn in by the lyrics and songwriting, regardless of whether the guitar playing or drumming is considered ‘virtuosic’ or not. And I’ve always thought of Chuck as the second type of fan in both cases- one who prefers catchy melodic metal and for whom a good guitar solo or drum track is, while not unappreciated, less of a priority than the lyrics and construction of the song as a whole. I’m very respectful of this type of fan even though I grew up as more of the first type, with a focus on instrumentalism (I’ve since adapted many qualities of the second type, hence my diverse listening tastes). So for these reasons and more, I’d never expected or even thought twice about being mentioned in one of Chuck’s books.
I’m actually happier that he’s never mentioned me or my band- it might taint the detached perspective from which I’m able to enjoy his work. Should I get a chance to meet Chuck again, I will tell him this: “I honestly don’t read your work as a ‘guy in a band.’ I read it as a fan of great writing.”
In Part II, we’ll look at the book itself, and you’ll see why it is, indeed, an example of great writing.