Chuck Klosterman swung through Boston last week, doing a talk at the Hard Rock Cafe that was hardly publicized. But, perhaps I’m just not looking in the right places.
I did a little piece for Bostonist on what I might have heard had I attended the event; check it out here.
For most folks, Klosterman’s epitome – and their introduction to the writer – is Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs. Out of all the essays in that collection, the best of them all is the first in the book, “This Is Emo.” Which, of course, has nothing to do with emo, but rather Klosterman’s frustration with the romantic longing of romance in our society. Fantastic piece, but when it comes to actually writing about emo, Klosterman’s stuff is few and far between and rather paltry. I did discover a piece he did for his montly Spin column called “The Rock Lexicon.” Klosterman’s definition of emo is more or less the usual and aligned with Andy Greenwald’s school of thought (and of course, as Greenwald is a Spin writer), but his conversation with his sister points out a lot of the paradoxes within emo in the mainstream:
“’I don’t read your magazine anymore,’ says my 36-year-old sister as we ride in a rental car. ‘I don’t read your magazine anymore because all you guys ever write about is emo, and I don’t get it.’
Now, for a moment, I find myself very interested in what my sister is saying. I absolutely cannot fathom what she could possibly hate about emo, and (I suspect) this subject might create an interesting ten minutes of rental-car discussion. Does she find emo too phallocentric? Do the simplistic chord progressions strike her as derivative? Why can’t she relate to emo? I ask her these questions, and I await her answer. But her answer is not what I expect.
‘No, no,’ she says. ‘When I say I don’t get emo, I mean I literally don’t know what it is. The word may as well be Latin. But I keep seeing jokes about emo in your magazine, and they’re never funny, because I have no idea what’s supposed to be funny about something I’ve never heard of.’
This, of course, leads to a spirited dialogue in which I say things like ‘‘Emo’ is short for emotional,’ and she says things like ‘But all pop music is about emotions,’ and I respond by saying, ‘It’s technically a style of punk rock, but it’s actually more of a personal, introspective attitude,’ and she counters with ‘That sounds boring,’ and then I mention Andy Greenwald (author of Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers, and Emo), and she asks, ‘Wasn’t Andy Greenwald a defensive end for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the late ’70s?’ and I say, ‘No, that was L.C. Greenwood, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know any of the members of Senses Fail.’”
*Chuck Klosterman being interviewed about Downtown Owl: