Quality Writing For Pop Culture Addicts

Chuck Klosterman

Chuck Klosterman, who has made a career out of writing about pop culture in a somewhat cynical but usually ridiculously hilariously fashion, put out a book last year called The Visible Man. I read it, and sat down to write this, then found out about his conversation cards: HYPERtheticals: 50 Questions for Insane Conversations.

While I really enjoyed The Visible Man, I also want to talk about the cards. But can't start this article without mentioning that Klosterman is the current New York Times Magazine's Ethicist. How's that for a reference? (So the answer is no, he's not too cool for you.)

The Visible Man takes the form of a manuscript being submitted to a book editor from a psychotherapist about her work with a man who had the ability to be mostly invisible, and used this to observe people in their natural habitat. Or, in other words, alone in their homes. Along the way, he almost kills someone, kills someone, then almost kills her husband. (I hope that's not giving too much away.)

The ability to become mostly invisible comes about through work he was doing for the US government, technology that he ended up stealing and completing in his own time. And now he's seeking therapy to work through the conflicted issues he feels because of this pastime.

Klosterman is funny because he throws random pop culture references into completely unrelated story lines. Describing how a girl is losing her mind after ingesting too many drugs, "She listens to Revolution 9, which nobody does." Later, the same girl, overdosing on drugs and exercise (simultaneously), discovers this near-invisible man in her apartment. "It was a little like the first time you saw me when I was cloaked, except way worse. She lost her shit completely. But this would be a lot to handle particularly if that person was super high and possibly dying and had just finished a cardio workout." Really. I have never seen those three concepts in one sentence, never mind one book.

And, of course, Klosterman was raised on heavy metal, and for that, he's a kindred spirit.

And now the just-discovered (by me) HYPERtheticals: 50 Questions for Insane Conversations, which I've just ordered from amazon.com. It's a collection of conversation cards, and one reviewer on amazon says: "It has potential for party fun, assuming your crowd includes mostly pop-culture-obsessed, half-drunk philosophers." (That's what I'm talking about. That's what I fancy myself! Someone open the prosecco.)

Another reviewer, after talking about how he employs the questions in all manner of social encounters, says: "Thanks Chuck Kolsterman for making me appear more interesting." (No need for pick-up artist lessons from Mystery for this guy.)

Here are two sample questions:

Someone builds a paranormal "Honesty Room." Within the walls of this room, it is impossible for anyone to tell lies (or to avoid answering whatever questions they are asked). This same inventor also creates a memory loss drug that is released into the air inside the Honesty Room as an airborne mist; what this means is that people who enter the Honesty Room will not remember what they said, what questions they were asked, or even that they were ever there. The only antidote to the memory loss drug is a pill, and you have this pill. So--in essence--you have access to a room where every guest who enters will tell you the absolute truth (about anything) and then immediately forget what they were asked and what they said. But you will retain everything you learn.

You are inside the Honesty Room with your parents. What do you ask them?

You meet your soul mate. However, there is a catch: Every three years, someone will break both of your soul mate’s collarbones with a Crescent wrench, and there is only one way you can stop this from happening: You must swallow a pill that will make every song you hear–for the rest of your life–sound as if it’s being performed by the band Alice in Chains. When you hear Creedence Clearwater Revival on the radio, it will sound (to your ears) like it’s being played by Alice in Chains. If you see Radiohead live, every one of their tunes will sound like it’s being covered by Alice in Chains. When you hear a commercial jingle on TV, it will sound like Alice in Chains; if you sing to yourself in the shower, your voice will sound like deceased Alice vocalist Layne Staley performing a capella (but it will only sound this way to you).

Would you swallow the pill?

Alice in Chains! Hilarious. Want to come over and play? The Prosecco is already open.