I Wear the Black Hat

Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined)

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Chuck Klosterman has walked into the darkness. As a boy, he related to the cultural figures who represented goodness—but as an adult, he found himself unconsciously aligning with their enemies. This was not because he necessarily liked what they were doing; it was because they were doing it on purpose (and they were doing it better). They wanted to be evil. And what, exactly, was that supposed to mean? When we classify someone as a bad person, what are we really saying (and why are we so obsessed with saying it)? How does the culture of deliberate malevolence operate?

In I Wear the Black Hat, Klosterman questions the modern understanding of villainy. What was so Machiavellian about Machiavelli? Why don’t we see Bernhard Goetz the same way we see Batman? Who is more worthy of our vitriol—Bill Clinton or Don Henley? What was O. J. Simpson’s second-worst decision? And why is Klosterman still haunted by some kid he knew for one week in 1985?

Masterfully blending cultural analysis with self-interrogation and imaginative hypotheticals, I Wear the Black Hat delivers perceptive observations on the complexity of the antihero (seemingly the only kind of hero America still creates). I Wear the Black Hat is a rare example of serious criticism that’s instantly accessible and really, really funny. Klosterman continues to be the only writer doing whatever it is he’s doing.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 224 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439184493 | 
  • July 2013
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I Wear the Black Hat
One should judge a man mainly from his depravities. Virtues can be faked. Depravities are real.

— Klaus Kinski, super nihilist.

I’m gonna quote a line from Yeats, I think it is: “The best lack all conviction, while the best are filled” . . . oh, no. It’s the other way around. “The best lack all conviction, and the worst are filled with a passionate intensity.” Now, you figure out where I am.

— Lou Reed, super high.

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