Good, Evil & the True Villain of Fleetwood Mac: J.M. Blaine Interviews “The Ethicist,” Chuck KlostermanBy TNB Nonfiction
August 20, 2013
A summary of I Fear the Black Hat’s conclusions about Chevy Chase: an arrogant, assholish monster of medium talent who consciously risks nothing and refuses to take himself seriously.
I suppose I do sort of describe him in that way in the book, yeah. Although I wouldn’t say I’m not a fan. I fucking loved the first three seasons of Community.
On Howard Cosell: He complicated the visceral to hide his weakness.
That’s certainly what his critics would have said. I think Cosell was probably just an insecure intellectual, and – for whatever reason – his ascension as a celebrity made that worse.
Of Chase and Cosell you say: I see all of their bad qualities in myself and none of the good.
I think that’s natural. I think that whenever you see someone emotionally flawed, you see yourself in those flaws. But you never see your strengths in other people. Those qualities always seem so specific to the individual.
A villain: The person who knows the most yet cares the least.
If I was asked what the thesis of the book was, that would be the answer. But it’s not a perfect field theory. There are exceptions, Hitler being the most glaring.
Mid-life crisis? Catholic guilt? Free will vs. predestination? Existentialism vs. absurdism?
I’m not having a mid-life crisis. I’m always in crisis, and Catholics aren’t the only people who feel guilty. The “free will vs. predestination” thing is all over the book, probably in every essay – but never stated implicitly. And I don’t know if existentialism is necessarily at odds with absurdism. It’s hard to be existential without feeling slightly absurd.
Why are you worried all the time? About what?
I don’t know. I just am.
You seem polite enough, at least semi-humble, helpful and concerned for others. Like a nice farm boy from the Midwest who hasn’t forgotten where he came from. Why do you see yourself as a villain?
Because I know what my true motives are. Even when I do good things, I do them for the wrong reasons. This is just something I know about myself.
Is Chuck Klosterman a bad person who does good things or a good person who does bad things?
I think I’m a person who does things.
You have a concise way of articulating things that I’ve spent years pondering but can’t find the words to express. Saved by the Bell. Vinnie Vincent’s solo career. The social dynamics of Purple Rain. How we should expect the President to lie because it’s the nature of the job. A statement like: The Eagles are the antithesis of ‘The Rockford Files’ blows my mind. How do you do it? What is the writing process and routine like for you? Is it like a free-form jazz thing or do you sit down with a specific purpose and idea of what you want to say?
That’s incredibly nice of you to say. I wish I had a cogent answer to that question, but – if I tried – I’d kind of be lying. My style is “no style,” which I think is the best style. If I were a musician, I’d be the kind of guy who could play a song without being able to read sheet music. I once read an interview with Moses Malone, and somebody asked him about his rebounding technique. He said, “I just go to the rack and do it.” That’s probably the best thing I could say about my own writing.
How long does it take you to get a typical ten-page chapter right and ready?
I think about it for a really long time, and then I write it really, really, really fast. So the answer is either three months or 90 minutes, depending on how you look at it.
Do you think of story ideas while driving or trying to sleep? Is Chuck Klosterman an insomniac?
I just sort of think about them all the time. Not necessarily consciously, but constantly. When I start thinking about something I find interesting, I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s a problem, actually. Drinking sometimes helps, but drugs make it worse.
I stayed up late last night watching You Tube performances of “The Chain” from ’77 to present day — trying to figure out the eye contact and body language between Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. Who is the true villain of Fleetwood Mac and why?
By the definition in my book, it would probably have to be John McVie. He definitely cared the least. I mean, Lindsey knows the most and cares the most. He’s a megalomaniac, but sort of for justifiable reasons. I
guess Stevie knew the most about witchcraft and scarves, but she seems like a pretty genuine person. This is a really hard question. Maybe Bob Welch or something.
Black Hat postulates that as children we associate with Luke Skywalker, as young men, Han Solo and later in life, Darth Vader. In what ways do you relate to Darth Vader?
I’m trapped inside a black exoskeleton. I also like blowing up planets.
There are two villains I was surprised to see missing from your book and wanted to get your take on: Axl Rose (mentioned twice in Black Hat but only within parentheses) and Gene Simmons.
I know I’m going to write about Axl Rose at length at some point in my life, so I’m saving all that material. I honestly think I could write an entire book about Chinese Democracy. That would really be satisfying. And I would have loved to write about Gene Simmons, but it just felt a little too on-the-nose. Plus, at this point in my life, I really only enjoy talking about KISS with people who are really, really into KISS. Like, insane about KISS. I’m not sure I’m well-positioned to write about KISS for a general audience.
If Kurt Cobain and Axl Rose had been cast as Batman villains in the Burton-era films (any Batman villain) – who would they best portray?
Axl could be a lot of Batman villains: Two-Face, Anarky, the Reaper, the Riddler. But Kurt Cobain is definitely Victor Zsasz. Also, I’m reading Wikipedia while I answer this
Chuck Klosterman is the New York Times bestselling author of six books of nonfiction and two novels (Downtown Owl and The Visible Man). His debut book, Fargo Rock City, was a winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award. He has written for GQ, Esquire, Spin, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Believer,and The A.V. Club. He currently covers sports and popular culture for ESPN and serves as “The Ethicist” for the New York Times Magazine.
I think Fleetwood Mac is the villain of Fleetwood Mac for keeping Lindsay Buckingham from just ripping those funky jams he’s so fond of. Like imagine entire albums full of World Turning. Rumors is essential for us now though, and can be used in a pinch to calibrate hi-fi systems.