God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins
I first tried to read God Delusion a few years back. About 50 pages in I thought, why am I reading this, I’m in his camp anyway? Years later I realised just how stupid that was; as if possibly changing my mind was the only reason to read a book.
Delusion did feel very dry to begin with, but is well-written, intelligent, and Dawkins’ arguments are clear and easily understood. His writing picks up around 250 pages in; you can almost see his anger, the steam rising from his nostrils, as he expresses outrage at religious rituals, and the blatantly bad thinking of some religious figures. Dawkins tells an old tale of a child who, unknowingly to his Jewish parents, was baptised by his 14-year old nanny. The child was then taken from them by the Catholic church, as the child was now considered Christian. Somehow, this was a perfectly acceptable and legal act, and the church couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. At this point in the book I imagined Dawkins’ face screwing up in anger, his keystrokes getting steadily more forceful.
Dropping the tone a good few notches, this book is a collection of ‘pop culture’ articles. There are stories on Star Wars, Saved By The Bell, and serial killers. I’d read a few Klosterman articles on grantland.comand enjoyed them all. He had impressed me on the Bill Simmons podcast about the ending of Lost, setting the fool Simmons right on a number of points and over-analysing a lot.Between me ordering this book and starting to read it I read some criticism of Chuck. I tried to not let one writer cloud my impressions of another, but some of the comments rang true, even in my limited experience of Klosterman. Sure enough, when I started reading Cocoa Puffs I saw the accuracy of some of those criticisms.
Chuck overuses the reversal in his writing, the way Scoop Jackson used to do when he was relevant. Scoop would so regularly use something like:
“…and that’s it, that’s all there is. But it’s not”
Klosterman often uses something along the lines of:
“…so really it means nothing. But it really means everything”
Chuck’s country, everyman image comes off as a little forced at times, like he’s writing stuff that doesn’t belong in order to maintain that impression. Part of the fun of his work, and really of most who write about pop culture, is that they analyse things that most of us just accept. His best moments are when does this, but sometimes it feels a little try-hard, as if he knows that this over-analysis is the name of the game (which it kind of is). Cocoa Puffs would be more enjoyable if he could at least hide this need a bit better. His article on creating himself in The Sims reeks of a desperation to write of something more than simply The Sims. If that even makes sense.
Reading this back, I do come across as quite critical of the book. Yet I enjoyed it. It just felt somewhat false at times, enough that I don’t have much of an urge to read more of his work.