In I Wear the Black Hat, Chuck Klosterman raises provocative questions about why we root for the people that we do. His fascinating, insightful, and sometimes troubling work exposes common hypocrisy, double standards, and complete irrationality. You’ll not only be entertained, you’ll be a bit disturbed about your own proclivities for nonsensical sympathies. Klosterman’s book is divided into 12 chapters, and within each chapter he profiles dozens of “bad” and “good” guys. He exposes patterns in public opinion that feel almost like small, contained conspiracy theories.
Some of the mini-essays are more universal than others. For example, a long timeline of Klosterman’s personal music dislikes may lose some readers. You may nod at the evolution of his distaste for Bruce Springsteen, but he gets a bit self-indulgent when he waxes philosophical on the merits of obscure 90s rock groups.
At its best moments, however, this book shocks the reader into rethinking how you view everyone from D.B. Cooper to Keith Richards to Batman to Bill Clinton. How can confidence and charisma make us love a murderous drug dealer? Why did the general public root for a hijacker that put lives at stake for no reason, but condemns purposeful hijacking decades later as “cowardly?” Why do we forgive major personalities like Muhammad Ali for egregious acts of racism, but we hate other figures who are merely a little bit self absorbed?
Klosterman doesn’t provide answers to his litany of questions, but the work is still satisfying. While reading this work, I actually considered how to be more successfully evil — how can you get away with more while also becoming more beloved? Hopefully this doesn’t go to my head too much! Another satisfying side effect is that Klosterman makes us feel supported and understood for secret loves of bad guys — I mean, who doesn’t root for Darth Vader or The Wire’s Omar?
I recommend this book for history buffs, sports fans, movie fans, reality television fans, critical thinkers, sociologists...pretty much everyone. It also lends itself to reading in short bursts — a great book for a busy week.
I decided to prepare a controversial vegetable: carrots. Most people have very strong opinions about both cooked and raw carrots. The vegetable transforms itself in deceptive, untrustworthy ways — in this case, I tried to harness that power for good.
SPICED GLAZED CARROTS
- 2 cups peeled, sliced carrots
- 1 generous pat of butter
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon thyme (preferably fresh)
- pinch of salt
- dash of black pepper
Place the carrots in a skillet and cover just barely with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until all the liquid has evaporated. Coat with remaining ingredients.