I Wear the Black Hat
Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined)
One-of-a-kind cultural critic and New York Times bestselling author Chuck Klosterman “offers up great facts, interesting cultural insights, and thought-provoking moral calculations in this look at our love affair with the anti-hero” (New York magazine).
Chuck Klosterman, “The Ethicist” for The New York Times Magazine, has walked into the darkness. In I Wear the Black Hat, he questions the modern understanding of villainy. When we classify someone as a bad person, what are we really saying, and why are we so obsessed with saying it? How does the culture of malevolence operate? What was so Machiavellian about Machiavelli? Why don’t we see Bernhard Goetz the same way we see Batman? Who is more worthy of our vitriol—Bill Clinton or Don Henley? What was O.J. Simpson’s second-worst decision? And why is Klosterman still haunted by some kid he knew for one week in 1985?
Masterfully blending cultural analysis with self-interrogation and imaginative hypotheticals, I Wear the Black Hat delivers perceptive observations on the complexity of the antihero (seemingly the only kind of hero America still creates). As the Los Angeles Times notes: “By underscoring the contradictory, often knee-jerk ways we encounter the heroes and villains of our culture, Klosterman illustrates the passionate but incomplete computations that have come to define American culture—and maybe even American morality.” I Wear the Black Hat is a rare example of serious criticism that’s instantly accessible and really, really funny.
Klosterman's latest exercise in pop-culture-infused philosophical acrobatics is an exploration of villainy, or rather, "the presentation of material" on the subject. Basically, the premise gives the veteran author (Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs) and current "Ethicist" for the New York Times Magazine an excuse to tackle an array of subjects ranging from Machiavelli (whose biggest crime was turning "an autocratic template into entertainment") to 1980s N.Y.C. subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz, who could have been a superhero if he had just kept his mouth shut. "Every forthcoming detail about his life even the positive ones made his actions on the subway seem too personal," Klosterman writes. His circuitous arguments are occasionally self-indulgent and too reminiscent of David Foster Wallace, but the writing is always intellectually vigorous and entertaining. According to Klosterman, being the villain is about knowing the most but caring the least, which has as much to do with self-awareness and public perception as the act itself.
A nice few hours of mind gymnastics
Chuck has a style of writing that I really enjoy. Not always contrarian but always attempting to get to the truth amongst the never ending noise of myth and common ignorance. The only reason it doesn't get the 5 stars from me is the length of the book. I got to the end and said out loud, "That's it?"
Layers of Reality
I'm one of the odd literary enthusiasts that prefer introspective looks of the actual than imaginatively creative scenarios. This is one of the finest opinionated collectives I've ever read and highly recommend it to anyone that just wants to open up their spiritual eye to what's actually around them.
Made me laugh out loud
I really enjoyed this book. I could totally relate and kept thinking "so true!" about everything I read. I was bummed when I finished it. I'm definitely looking up more of CK's work and will recommend this book to everyone.