Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined) by Chuck Klosterman

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Chuck Klosterman writes for The New York Times as "The Ethicist" and is an all-around pop culture guru. Given these two facts about him, it's no surprise that Black Hat is thoughtful, irreverent, and a little subversive. The book is a series of essays dissecting the magnetism of villains. His running mantra is that the villain is almost always the person who "knows the most and cares the least." It's a sticky and pithy phrase that the book tries to prove by examining an assortment of famous and marginally-famous people who are revered by some as villain-hero. On some levels, Klosterman really hits his marks. His self-analysis of his semi-irrational hatred of Rick Helling makes himself the villain, but also the most likeable reflection of him in Black Hat. His strongest arguments for the paradox of villain-worship draw parallels of ideas we are repulsed by, like the 9/11 hijackers, with situations that we can admire on some level, like D. B. Cooper's strange coup. Overall, Klosterman gives his readers some ideas to chew on, certainly on the complications of embracing the evil, which very well might be within. His ideas that appeal to the universal in human nature strike the right notes, but the latter essays veer a bit off the path he meticulously set out in the beginning. At the very least, that phrase is something that will probably pop into my mind whenever I consider the bad guy.

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