Chuck Klosterman in “The art of questioning everything”

Book reviews, Uncategorized

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But What If We’re Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past, Chuck Klosterman, Blue Rider Press, 2016.


By now Chuck Klosterman has left, perhaps ironically, his imprint on pop-culture with his books dissecting popular-culture. He also holds the distinction of being one of the most renowned writers in his genre of literature. In his latest effort But What If We’re Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past he examines how future generations of humans may view us and the culture surrounding us. Klosterman raises questions such as “What if what we believe about everything is inaccurate?” and “How will we be perceived in a hundred years? Three-hundred?”.

Oftentimes, certainty appears to be a given until we are forced to reconsider what we thought were universal truths. Established truths? Certainly. Factual? Questionable.

Before Isaac Newton, the world thought about gravity on certain terms —or not at all— after sir Isaac’s theories, he went virtually unchallenged in his assessments for two centuries. Until Albert Einstein came along that is, and changed our understanding of gravity. The principle behind But What lf We’re Wrong About Everything? is that time is the one true unit of measurement valid when it comes to determining the cultural value of discoveries, ideas and art.

Just because you’ve been taught to believe so and so doesn’t make them right. The author says certainty is all but illusion. Concepts and opinions develop and change over time, altering the fabric of society. To this point, Klosterman makes the case for Herman Melville’s Moby Dick becoming a literary classic despite being shunned by critics in its era.

Essay topics range from which books will transcend time, TV as art, the merit of established ideas and “facts”. I love Klosterman whenever he talks about music and still slips some music-related themes. Here he ponders who history will depict as the ultimate rock band -Beatles or Stones?- the answer isn’t as easy as you’d think. He also tackles football and the NFL and why realistically the sport might not be around in 25 years —successfully, I may add—among others. It never ceases to amaze me how Chuck Klosterman is able to make sense of just about anything using popular-culture.

It’s hard to justify the amount of what ifs a such book encompasses, luckily the author is more than up to the challenge. Klosterman makes a lot of cohesive points backed by clever arguments. He’s effectively able to hold an idea together with the added benefit of being an engaging writer. This is especially important for a book that holds no definite answers to the questions it ponders.

Not every thought or sentiment expressed in But What If We’re Wrong About Everything? is a gold nugget, yet some are thought-provoking enough that they warrant making the reader question what he or she knows.

But What If We’re Wrong About Everything? Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past only slightly tainted when Klosterman announces that it might be destined to be forgotten and quote-on-quote, hopeless. It is after all the concept of the book to question which aspects of science, popular-culture, arts etc. will hold lasting power, and which ones will ultimately be forgotten.

Until the release of his next works it’s hard to determine where this volume ranks on the Klosterman scale. Is it his most accomplished work? No. Did it need to be written? Probably not, but Chuck is just so darn likeable and readable. 3/5*

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