Chuck Klosterman, “X”

live from my office

Chuck Klosterman's new book is black.

I don't mean black as in bleak, though it is that occasionally, especially near the end when he's ruminating on death. I mean it's black as in the color. The dust jacket is black with white lettering and, when you remove it, the cover is black and has a big, differently shaded black X spanning it.

But that's not the weird part.

The pages are black too. Not on the inside, of course; this collection, consisting of essays and profiles published the past decade, is printed on standard black-text-on-white-paper. I mean on the outside. The edges of the page are black. When you stand the book up and look at it from an angle, it looks a little like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. I imagine miniature monkey men looking up at it in wonder, screeching their displeasure. I wonder what secrets it holds.

In short, I am fascinated by this odd aesthetic choice.

I don't need to introduce you to Chuck Klosterman, but since this is the paragraph where I tell you I don't need to introduce you to Chuck Klosterman and then introduce you to him anyway, I guess I better introduce you to Chuck Klosterman. He's probably the most famous chronicler of popular culture in the American media landscape and has been for 15 years or so. In this collection alone, he includes profiles of, arguably, the biggest pop star (Taylor Swift) and the biggest athlete (Tom Brady) and the biggest novelist (Jonathan Franzen) on the American scene.

Also, he loves KISS.

If Chuck Klosterman has a defining mode of inquiry, it's thinking about how artists think. He is obsessed with self-obsession. For instance, in his review of Guns and Roses' Chinese Democracy, he writes the following: "The most compelling question throughout Chinese Democracy is never ‘What was Axl doing here?' but rather ‘What did Axl think he was doing here? … Often, I don't even care if his choices work or if they fail. I just want to know what Rose hoped they were supposed to do."

This is how I feel about Chuck Klosterman's monolith of a book and its black pages. If I were forced to guess why he did this, I would offer one of these three options.

Option one: This is Chuck Klosterman's "Black Book." He loves music and there are two* great Black Albums. Why not a Black Book?

Option two: Someone at his publishing house did this without telling him. This strikes me as unlikely, since I imagine that he's a.) a bit of a control freak and b.) it'd cost more to do this. If there's anything I know about book publishers, it's that they're cheap.**

Option three: The third, and most likely option, is that he did it just to make other people ask why he did it. There is no functional reason for the edges of the pages to be black. There is also little aesthetic reason to do this, given that a book, when it's on a bookshelf where it's going to be for 99.87 percent of its life, will be displayed with the pages facing inward and not outward. It's not as if anyone will see the oddity on your shelf and ask themselves what the deal is. You can't show off your cool, black-paged book without radically altering the appearance of your bookshelf. In other words, he did it just to see who would wonder why he did it.

I wonder why he'd do that.

*Well, three, if you count Spinal Tap's. But I'm not sure if we do.

**I actually know nothing about book publishers, so this could be wrong.