Eating The Dinosaur (Part I)

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.

16 Responses to Eating The Dinosaur (Part I)

  1. Look forward to hearing more about the book. As a slightly different oddball combination (physicist, metal/jazz fan AND incurable pedant) I feel obliged to point out that a constellation is actually a more general physical structure than a solar system. Hence to be in “not the exact same constellation, [but] at least the same solar system” is inherently impossible. You may, however, be “not in the same solar system, but in the same constellation” or perhaps (if you're much less closely related) “not in the same constellation, but in the same galaxy” ūüėČ

    • That makes sense. In my writing whirlwind, I quickly (and mistakenly) reasoned that those constellations we see above were all in the same solar system, not taking into consideration that each constellation consists of stars, and our 'sun'¬† is basically a star with its own solar system. It's been changed it to 'galaxy.'¬† 'Not on the same planet, but in the same solar system' would have worked too, but I like the word 'constellation.' Thanks for the physics lesson, Doc.

  2. My first exposure to Chuck was on some VH1 show a few years ago, and I thought he was interesting. He isn't afraid to admit what kind of bands he likes, even if they are ridiculed for being silly or over the top; which is really cool. He acknowledges their flaws but still loves them. I've read a few of his books and I find his writing to be very engaging. Aside from writing about music that myself and others like, I find it interesting because he intertwines the stories with his personal experiences growing up in North Dakota, which I did also. It easy extremely easy to picture myself in these stories because I have been to a lot of the places that happen to be in his books (I'm not sure how many people who read his books have). I like his nonfiction stuff, but I think I find his fiction work to be more interesting. I don't know if you've Downtown Owl, but that book is great! It totally encompasses life in those small towns and how bleak/depressing it can be (thankfully I didn't grow up in a town like that, it was one of the “bigger” cities in ND). And as you said, they way he writes makes you want to reread the book after you finished it.¬†
    As far as what type of combination I would be, it would be artist, metal/rock/fusion guy. Being as I now live in SF, that sort of breaks the mold as most of my friends and people I know listen to all kinds of hipster/indy rock bands.

    • Haven't read his fiction yet, thx for the recommendations. I'm sure they're really good. It must be strange for guys like you and CK to grow up in places like North Dakota, then migrate to major cultural centers on either coast, such as NY and San Fran. I've passed through Fargo once or twice and can't imagine growing up so far from the 'coasts.'

      • Yeah there was a bit of a difference between the two shall we say. The funny thing is, when I got to meet you for the first time, I got to have dinner with you when you were in Grand Forks for your Yamaha clinic (it was with Jamie & Mike Tempesta); I mentioned to you that I was going to be moving out here and you told me how much I would love it. And for the most part, you are totally right!

        • I absolutely remember that- my first time there (and to be accurate, my only time so far). I hadn't read Klosterman yet, butnow that I have, I'm sure I'll see N Dakota in a whole new light. Enjoy SF!

  3. Looking forward for the book review.
    I find it amusing that you said “I regress to adolescence shyness in the presence of my favourite authors”!… I guess once you are shy it never goes away (and I speak for myself), one may find a way around it and learns to cope with it in most situations but when it comes down to our innermost emotions or feelings you simply can't escape it.
    I met you once and you were friendly and talkative but still I found you shy. Not that there's anything wrong with it. In fact shyness is a blessing as it seems to keep intrusive people away.
    Just be who you are regardless of any “label”.

    • If you think I'm at all shy now, you should have seen me as a teenager. I wondered how I'd ever be able to survive on stage until I read that a lot of very dynamic performers, from Jimi Hendrix to (iconic comedian/talk show host) Johnny Carson, were actually very shy people offstage.

  4. M&G I saw only Kreator in 93¬ī and Savatage 2001 and I agree with this feeling: it¬īs strange and good have meeting with who inspire us. we dont know what say, what ask, we want only be there, looking !!! And belive it, when you speak a different language is still more exciting: for the different culture. Im not totally immune but I know disguise hahahahahaha!

    Claudia, vc foi perfeita no seu coment√°rio sobre a timidez ! ūüôā

    • It's interesting because he and I are from the same culture and very different ones at the same time. The cultural things we have in common include hard rock/metal music and New York City. But there are others where I have little in common with him, such as some alternative/modern rock (I can understand all the references to Radiohead-I'm a fan, own several albums, but references to Teenage Fanclub or My Chemical Romance, are lost on me), North Dakota and the NCAA (US College Basketball)

  5. I have not read any of his books but may have to get this rare yet very well done piece. He sort of reminds me of a muppet in this pic Рa cute and wise one that I'm sure appreciates you as a fan. What an honor. Fan appreciation is a matter of preference based on what we admire and value that we find in these stars; writers, musicians, actors, athletes, culinary celebrities or business tycoons. And, it's especially nice to receive a gracious and heartfelt response back that exceeds expectations and endears them even more to us with qualities that shine beyond their talent.  We're lucky to have clusters of them here on earth, whose bodies of uniquely gifted forms, sizes and shapes share this space for awhile. Some rise to great heights while others fall. The brightest ones found in great artists, musicians and writers, or the less noticed ones, such as scientists, teachers, firemen, nurses etc, all send rays of light to illuminate the dimly lit and fading ones and keep our constellation radiating with brilliance that leaves behind life changing stardust. All are ones I appreciate, admire and am grateful to share the benefits of. Talents that shine to serve our planet well and help it avoid extinction. .

    • He is absolutely a wise one and I think anyone with an open mind would grow wiser to read his work. It is a gift to be able to have fans and be a fan at the same time. And stars are absolutely not limited to those in the spotlight. Everyone you mentioned applies, as well structural engineers, architects, urban planners and many others whose names are known to so few.

      • And, a wise person will hear and increase learning by open understanding to different points of view. Human wisdom and knowledge are good and helpful as far as they go, obtained by many ways, but one needs to recognize the source of true wisdom and follow that course.

  6. Uh Alex, did you hack into my reading list? With 'Eating the Dinosaur' the stars evidently aligned for Chuck, pop culture and the world in which we operate.¬†Superb format for his far-reaching range. I concur, worthy of a reread.¬†Shy. Hmm,¬†a grand emotion. I am of the same mind, there is something utterly daunting about¬†literati.¬†Speaking of literati, kudos to you…the annotations you furnish enlighten¬†yet abdicate absolute judgment. You skirt the issue effortlessly and naturally. Truth be told, I think your Freudian slip is showing…<smirk>…yes, pun intended. Suddenly, I am¬†reminded of Ayn Rand, “Judge, and be prepared to be judged.” Alex, your freedom from hypocrisy¬†is refreshing and respected. I look¬†forward to your future expressions.</smirk>

    • This is kind of weird- by mentioning Ayn Rand, you've just hacked into my reading list- I'm about a third of the way through 'Atlas Shrugged.' There may be a blog on it at some point, but it's a weighty subject.¬† Good quote from an extremely misunderstood author- a warrior issuing a call to arms against mediocrity- whose work is often cited by misguided people who represent the antithesis of the high standards she describes. They view her fiction as some sort of political manifesto, which is like citing pro-peace religious teachings as a justification for war (which happens all the time, unfortunately). Much appreciated.

      • Weighty…yes, and that is exactly why it is so worthy of a blog. Do it! And yes, there are many who are terribly misguided….a sad commentary.

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