22 August 2019

Raised in Captivity by Chuck Klosterman


This is the type of book I always struggle with writing a review for. I typically stay away from short stories, especially if the compilation is made up of only the one author. I've been reading Chuck Klosterman's books for almost a decade now and still feel compelled to pick up his newest work all these years later. Raised in Captivity is his newest work and is a collection of short stories.

When Klosterman isn't publishing books I usually keep up with him and his thoughts on Bill Simmons's podcast on The Ringer. The two have been friends for a super long time and Simmons will often have Klosterman on to talk sports and whatever's going on in pop culture at that moment. I always look forward to these episodes and end up listening to them right away.

In the most recent interview Klosterman talks a little bit about Raised in Captivity but more from the perspective of his book tour. He doesn't get in to his writing process other than to say he loves the "working/writing stages" much more than actually finishing the book. He talks about being interviewed by other Ringer writer Shea Serrano, and even Tom Perrotta. I'd love to see a video of the Perrotta/Klosterman interview because The Leftovers is one of my favourite shows (thanks Ben!) and Perrotta is the author of the book they adapted it from. The two write about strange shit and I'm sure they'd have an interesting/entertaining conversation.

You spend all this time convincing yourself that you're not the center of the universe and that reality isn't some movie where you're the main character. You stare at the ocean and remind yourself that the waves crashing against the shoreline have been crashing that way for two billion years, and this realization proves your existence is a minor detail within a trivial footnote inside a colossal book that can never be opened or closed."

Reading the short story "Cat Person" alongside my cat Zoey...
Klosterman is most famous for his non-fiction writing. He writes a ton about sports, music, and anything pop culture-related really. But he's also written two fiction books (Downtown Owl, The Visible Man) which I've really enjoyed. He once mentioned how much more difficult it is to write fiction, how every sentence feels like a battle because it is completely fabricated. But I found his novels to be written quite well, with obviously a lot of his own personal style you'd find in his non-fiction.

I hate to write this review in a way because I really didn't enjoy Raised in Captivity, but I'm confident it has nothing to do with Klosterman's writing or talent. I honestly just loathe most short stories. I also love Dave Eggers' writing but found myself so disinterested in his short story collection How We Are Hungry. They apparently just aren't for me.

That being said, some stuff I did enjoy:

The "Blizzard of Summer" story about a pop-rock song that is beloved by many but also interpreted as racist:

'We're dealing with a fundamental question about art,' the manager finally said, trying to sound like a person who understood the problem. 'Does the motive of the artist matter, or is the received message the only thing that counts? Two of you wrote a love song. Some people think it's a hate song. Smart people get it. Dumb people don't. But dumb people are still people. We can't discount the taste of dumb people. That's half the audience. Half the people who loved The Beatles were idiots. Charles Manson thought the song 'Helter Skelter' was about a coming race war. It's actually about a British carnival slide. But nobody got murdered because ten million people didn't think 'Helter Skelter' was about racial genocide. People got murdered because one person thought it was."


The collection is also pretty comedic, which I feel like is to be expected from Klosterman. There's a super short story called "Truth About Food" in which the narrator ponders whether animals are healthy eaters or not.

I'll keep this review short and end with saying Raised in Captivity isn't for me, but I think that's more a reflection of my personal taste rather than Klosterman's talent. So if you like short stories and you've enjoyed Klosterman's work before, I'd certainly recommend you check this one out!

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