Ralph Sampson Agonistes

Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman (2010): Klosterman’s musings on popular culture in the 21st century pretty much always combine insight with bizarre range. One 20-page essay is given over to assessing not just how good a basketball player Ralph Sampson was, but why Klosterman himself is obsessed with trying to assess how good a basketball player Ralph Sampson was…especially as Klosterman is a Boston Celtics fan and Sampson was never a Celtic (indeed, Sampson’s most [in]famous NBA moment came when the 7’4″ centre punched 6’1″ Celtic back-up guard Jerry Sichting in a playoff game between the two teams). That sort of on-going self-assessment is one of Klosterman’s strengths.

So is his ability to make initially strange but ultimately workable connections between, say, Pepsi marketing campaigns and President Obama’s election, or the Branch Davidians and Nirvana’s In Utero, or the Unabomber and, well, pretty much everything.

The last subject leads Klosterman into a fairly interesting maze of self-reflection and self-interrogation on his own belief that technology is invariably bad for humanity, a conclusion he admits is both hypocritical, given his use of technology, and possibly wrong, given what life for pre-technological humanity was like (actually, he doesn’t deal at much length with this last conundrum. I guess there could always be a sequel).

In any case, Klosterman’s funnier than Malcolm Gladwell and a better writer than Bill Simmons, the other two-thirds of the post-post-modern essayist Affinity Group he’s part of. Highly recommended.

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