IT'S GOOD TO HAVE Chuck Klosterman back doing what he does best: taking pop culture seriously and writing his ass off about it. His last book, Downtown Owl, was a good novel and a nice change of pace, but in Eating the Dinosaur, Klosterman once again zeroes in on disposable culture—and in doing so, points out everything indispensable about it.
Dinosaur contains some of Klosterman's best work, but it's also his most uneven book so far. After a clever opening—in which the journalist-turned-famed-author interviews documentarian Errol Morris and This American Life's Ira Glass about... well, interviewing and being interviewed—Dinosaur drags. It's interesting but never engrossing to hear Klosterman talk about Garth Brooks/Chris Gaines; it's a stretch to see him link Kurt Cobain and David Koresh; and his thoughts on The Real World, Rear Window, and daily voyeurism are solid but unsurprising. (By the time he's talking about college football, he openly admits he might be boring some readers. "Non-football followers who are nonetheless reading this essay out of literary obligation, mild interest, or sheer boredom: You might want to consider skipping most of the next section," he advises.)
Throughout, though, Klosterman offers his usual prickly one-liners (my favorites from Dinosaur: "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," and "The degree to which anyone values the internet is proportional to how valuable the internet makes that person"), as well as ample evidence that he may be distressingly obsessed with Lost.
Thankfully, Dinosaur ends with four essays that're fucking fantastic. In one, Klosterman convincingly argues that the laugh track is "the most fucked-up media construction spawned by the 20th century." In another, he uses Mad Men and a Pepsi press release to delve into our symbiotic relationship with advertising. Then the works and words of Rivers Cuomo, Ralph Nader, and Werner Herzog are invoked in the names of irony, art, and politics. In the book's final essay, he wrestles with the Unabomber's surprisingly coherent anti-technology screed from 1995. These essays are Klosterman at his best: witty, smart, surprising, convincing. They're proof of how entertaining—and valuable—Klosterman's low-culture manifestos can be.