So what does Chuck K. Mean by ‘Eating The Dinosaur?’
Like a lot of topics in the book, it’s open to interpretation, and the meaning attached to it depends on the mindset, thought process and logic applied individual readers. For this reader, a first guess is that the title is rooted in irony- like an impressionistic painting of the term ‘biting the hand that feeds you.’ In other words, Chuck K’s been fed by the ‘dinosaur’ of print media and popular culture for many years now. He’s earned an upwardly mobile living primarily as a journalist for magazines whose relevance may be subjective (Spin, Esquire, Rolling Stone etc…) but whose popularity has been undeniable. He’s conducted interviews, written reviews and penned essay on music, sports, television, literature, film and other cultural entities, translating these experiences into several best-selling books of which I’d previously read two (‘Fargo Rock City’ and ‘Killing Yourself To Live,’ both highly recommended). Now he’s turning the table on the juggernaut that has provided his identity and livelihood.
One of the essays in the book (‘T Is For True’), examines our culture’s unspoken battle between irony and literalism- so in the spirit of that essay, here’s another theory: the title is a literal reference to a line in the book’s essay ‘Tomorrow Rarely Knows,’ which examines the fictional concept of time travel in popular books and movies and makes an argument that traveling backwards in time is more or less pointless, with the exception of eating a dinosaur.
While Klosterman’s musings on time travel may be connected to the title, they don’t begin to represent the content of the book as a whole. A better representation would be the numerous essays on mega-celebrities in our day and age. Some have been tragically destroyed by guilt (example: Kurt Cobain, whose comparison to cult leader David Koresh is surprisingly effective), others have been propped up for success, then quickly castigated and brought down (example-Ralph Sampson- an 80’s college basketball superstar whose NBA career failed to live up to expectations). In a few cases, triumphant success has triggered a desperate need to morph into another person- a transformation that has been achieved successfully (David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust) and not (Garth Brooks/Chris Gaines). In other cases, artists have beaten the system by inexplicably remaining both irrelevant and mega-successful at the same time (case in point: ABBA). Other topics include voyeurism, America’s fixation with the automobile, the moral contradictions of football (I admit skipping over one section- only on Mr. K’s strong advice to do so unless you’re a ‘die hard’ sports fan), laughter-canned, faked and otherwise, a philosophical dissection of a Pepsi marketing campaign, and a collection of hilarious yet accurate hypothetical ‘best response’ guide for handling public scandals and other awkward situations.
While these topics may appear to have little in common, there is an indescribable common thread that ties them all together. Readers may not always agree with 100% of Chuck’s barrage of observations, but it is difficult to imagine to imagine anyone not finding not finding them to be thought provoking and at the very least, highly entertaining.
I admit having no idea what this book was ‘about’ when I first saw it, or even glanced at it’s contents, so it’s hard to convey in just a few words. In fact, at this point, I’m pretty sure my descriptions aren’t necessary helping. So the best way I can get across to you why ‘Eating The Dinosaur’ is an important book (at least in this musician/aspiring writer’s opinion) is to share a few favorite passages from the book below. Enjoy!
From “Eating The Dinosaur”
“Cultural slaves are compensated with colossal sacks of cash. But they’re still paid less than they deserve, despite the fact that they produce nothing of consequence… I do not know how much money Britney Spears earned last year. However, I do know that it’s not enough for me to what her life, were I given the option to have it. Every day, random people use Britney’s existence as currency, they talk her epic failures and her lack of talent as a way to fill the emptiness of their own normalcy . She-along with Linsay Lohan and Paris Hilton and all l those androids from ‘The Hills’ – are the unifying entities within this meta-era (Note from Alex S.- since I read this book in 2011, I mentally factored in Kim Kardashian and Snooki). In a splintered society, they are the means through which people devoid of creativity communicate with each other. They allow Americans to understand who they are and who they are not; they allow Americans to unilaterally agree on something they never needed to consciously consider. A person like Britney Spears surrenders her privacy and her integrity, and in exchange we give her huge sums of money. But she still doesn’t earn a fraction of what she warrants in a free-trade cultural economy. If Britney Spears were paid $1 every time a self-loathing stranger used her as a surrogate for his own failure, she would outearn Warren Buffett in three months.”
“If You change any detail about the past, you might accidentally destroy everything in present-day existence. This is why every movie about time travel makes a big, obvious point about not bringing anything from the present back in time, often illustrated by forcing the fictionalized time traveler to travel nude. If you went back to 60,000 BC with a tool box and absentmindedly left the vise grip behind, it’s entirely possible that the world would technologically advance at an exponential rate and destroy itself by the sixteenth century. Or so I’m told.”
“Journalism allows almost anyone to direct questions they would never ask of their own friends at random people; since the ensuing dialogue exists for commercial purposes, both parties accept an acceleration of intimacy. People give emotional responses, but those emotions are projections. The result (when things go well) is a dynamic, adversarial, semi-real conversation. I am at ease with this. If given a choice between interviewing someone or talking to them ‘for real’ I prefer the former. I don’t like having the social limitations of tact imposed upon my day-to day- interactions and I don’t enjoy talking to most people more than once or twice in my lifetime”
“People tend to fixate on the physical downside of growing old, but everyone appreciates the aura of wisdom one inherits from saying aboveground. You live, you learn. That’s how it goes. There aren’t many situations where life experience is assumed to make you dumber. The ability to understand technology is one notable exception (Note from Alex S. I might add in one more: the ability to become bilingual). The ability to understand popular music is another. And this creates a transfer of minor power: Teenagers- who almost always have a limited worldview and aren’t supposed to understand anything essential about taste- will always retain exclusive command over one of the most transformative art forms on the planet. If young people view a pop song as important, it’s important. There’s no other element to that circular equation (if they like it, it matters, and it matters because they like it). If young audiences don’t care about a certain pop song, it can still be amazing and insightful and artistically competent- but it can’t be ‘important.’ Because that’s the one thing they get to decide entirely.”