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Oct 13

I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined) by Chuck Klosterman


I think I first heard of Chuck Klosterman on Facebook. Specifically, people were answering his 23 questions (feel free to Google it). I found the phenomenon mildly interesting, but I became more curious once I did a little research and found that he’s also the current Ethicist for the New York Times Magazine. Anyway, some time later, I was browsing my local brick-and-mortar bookstore and noticed a copy of the recently published I Wear the Black Hat. The dust jacket promised an exploration of the nature of evil, what it is that makes certain people evil (Bernie Goetz) but not others (Batman), etc. Sounded like a good opportunity to check out Klosterman in more detail, so I grabbed a copy.

The book turned out to be a solid ‘OK’. He does explore some interesting ground on the nature of villainy in our current cultural context, often pointing out thought-provoking inconsistencies and contradictions. Early on, he proposes a theory of the villain’s defining characteristic (‘They know the most but care the least’) and proceeds to build up evidence for it through the rest of the book. It generally makes for good reading; I like his overall philosophical approach, though his style (see the 23 questions mentioned above) gets a little mechanical and becomes less charming (and more grating) the longer it goes on.