I had just about had it with Chuck Klosterman.
I first read Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs when I was fifteen and, after reading the chapter “Being Zach Morris,” was ready to book a flight to New York to meet Chuck and tell him I think we should get married (I reasoned that I was too young to do this, and decided to wait until I was in college). I read Killing Yourself to Live about a year later, I was horrified that I had ever contemplated marriage with this guy. Who would want to spend the rest of their lives with someone that…analytical? Chuck would surely make me overly self-conscious of every bit of pop culture I ingested. He would turn my not-so-secret love for the Dixie Chicks into some sort of observation about how my love for them was an expression of some subconscious part of my being. Dammit, Chuck. I just want to listen to the Dixie Chicks in peace. I read the rest of Klosterman’s books as they came out, like so many others (they’re all bestsellers), and claimed to have loved to hate him, but really—who was I kidding—the flame of love for Chuck my formerly fifteen-year-old self had was still burning.
So when I saw Klosterman’s newest book, The Visible Man, on the “New Releases” shelf at Barnes and Noble, I was weirdly cautious. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pick it up or not. Our relationship was so complicated. Did I want to dip my toe into it again? So much baggage. Plus, The Visible Man is a work of fiction. I usually like Klosterman more when he sticks with his most popular form: the essay. But of course, because of my strange attraction to this fast-talking (or rather, fast-writing), glasses-wearing pop-culture savant, I picked that book right off the shelf, made a beeline to the checkout counter, and read the entire thing in one sitting at a coffee shop next door.
The Visible Man tracks the relationship between Victoria Vick, a married, everyday therapist, and Y____, the strangest new patient she’s ever had. The entire book is uniquely narrated by Vick through transcripts of her and Y____’s conversations sent in volumes, with letters, to her potential publisher. At first, Y____ refuses to meet in person, instead requesting hour-long phone sessions. When Vick finally convinces Y____ to meet in person, things get even stranger. Y____ slowly reveals himself to be a scientist that, with advanced invisibility technology, is able to enter people’s homes and observe them for days on end without them knowing — which he does, and thoroughly enjoys. Y____ claims that his voyeurism is not at all sexual, but rather scientific: the ultimate experiment in revealing the true human psyche. Only when people don’t know that they are being watched are they truly themselves.
Surprisingly, The Visible Man is sort of shocking and awesome. It’s a huge risk for Klosterman. Though The Visible Man shares the same whip-smart writing style typical of Klosterman, the content isn’t like sucking on the candy that is Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. It is, however, very thought-provoking — a more philosophical side of Klosterman that just might work with the majority of his mass readership.
Worth Reading: Yes. The Visible Man is easy to read, and makes you think about how well anyone can really know someone without seeing them in their true solitariness.
Time taken: Not too long. At 230 pages of mostly phone call transcriptions, letters, and emails, it’s a breeze.