In an early chapter of Eating the Dinosaur, author Chuck Klosterman ruminates on whether he has a favorite guitarist. “That’s more a question of virtuosity versus feel,” he writes. “Jeff Beck has a high level of both, I suppose, but sometimes that works to his disadvantage. Clapton and Page are both good, but I think we’ve taken the blues as far as they can go. The blues get in the way now.” It’s a classic Klosterman riff, not unlike a riff from one of his guitar heroes. And it’s these writing flourishes that make Eating the Dinosaur such a gutsy, irreverent, wonderful read.
Klosterman is a gifted essayist whose work is regularly on display in Esquire and The New York Times Magazine. Now he displays his wit and wisdom in a nonfiction collection that explores pop culture, sports and the meaning of life. Eating the Dinosaur ponders such wide-ranging topics as the similarities between the late alt-rocker Kurt Cobain and the late cult leader David Koresh and some of the things Unabomber Ted Kaczynski had right. There are lighter pieces about sitcom laugh tracks, Garth Brooks, time travel and the new look of Pepsi. In the wrong hands, this eclectic mix could prove disastrous. But Klosterman exhibits a deep knowledge and a deft touch on an expansive list of topics, and his insights are sometimes enlightening, sometimes educational and always entertaining.
John T. Slania is a journalism professor at Loyola University in Chicago.