I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined)

It's fitting that the "Ethicist" for the New York Times Magazine should be interested in writing about villainy. After all, Chuck Klosterman (Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs) has covered nearly every other facet of popular culture. Centered on a theme more abstract than those of his past works, I Wear the Black Hat examines society's most vilified figures and what their condemnation reveals about our collective ethos.

Reading Klosterman is akin to staring through a kaleidoscope of cultural references, rotating it slightly and seeing something both completely unexpected and strangely logical. A discussion of the Monica Lewinsky scandal segues neatly into a study of celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton, while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar serves to clarify a character study of O.J. Simpson. Even Batman earns a place in the line-up. In each case, we are pushed beyond questions of individual psychology to more wide-sweeping implications. For example, the question is not why Hitler was evil, but what our interpretation of his evilness reveals about society as a whole.

Klosterman's range of interests, which has led to bylines everywhere from the Guardian to Spin, is evident in his unusual entertaining style. A self-described media addict and voracious consumer of Internet content, he never takes readers' attention for granted. His strange humor provides all the necessary incentive to follow him through far-flung analogies and even the occasional personal tangent. --Annie Atherton, intern at Shelf Awareness

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