We live in a culture of casual certitude. This has always been the case, no matter how often that certainty has failed. Though no generation believes there's nothing left to learn, every generation unconsciously assumes that what has already been defined and accepted is (probably) pretty close to how reality will be viewed in perpetuity. And then, of course, time passes. Ideas shift. Opinions invert. What once seemed reasonable eventually becomes absurd, replaced by modern perspectives that feel even more irrefutable and secure - until, of course, they don't.
But What If We're Wrong? visualizes the contemporary world as it will appear to those who'll perceive it as the distant past. Chuck Klosterman asks questions that are profound in their simplicity: How certain are we about our understanding of gravity? How certain are we about our understanding of time? What will be the defining memory of rock music 500 years from today? How seriously should we view the content of our dreams? How seriously should we view the content of television? Are all sports destined for extinction? Is it possible that the greatest artist of our era is currently unknown (or - weirder still - widely known but entirely disrespected)? Is it possible that we overrate democracy? And, perhaps most disturbing, is it possible that we've reached the end of knowledge?
Kinetically slingshotting through a broad spectrum of objective and subjective problems, But What If We're Wrong? is built on interviews with a variety of creative thinkers - George Saunders, David Byrne, Jonathan Lethem, Kathryn Schulz, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene, Junot Díaz, Amanda Petrusich, Ryan Adams, Nick Bostrom, Dan Carlin, and Richard Linklater, among others - interwoven with the type of high-wire humor and nontraditional analysis only Klosterman would dare to attempt. It's a seemingly impossible achievement: a book about the things we cannot know, explained as if we did. It's about how we live now, once "now" has become "then".
©2016 Chuck Klosterman (P)2016 Penguin Audio
I will read this book again. I may even try to listen to it again. But there is no debating the degree to which the performance takes away from this audio book. It's not so much that Fiona Hardingham (somewhat comically) mispronounces words like Akron, its that she rarely delivers Klosterman's thoughts with the proper cadence. She constantly ruins his jokes and worse, she often makes his complex ideas very difficult to process. When Klosterman takes over the narration for the final minutes it is such a (short lived) relief.
The narration compounds the problems of the book. Unlike most of Klosterman's non-nonfiction this is not a book of essays. It would be fair categorize the book as philosophy although at times it comes closer to semiotics. I have no problem with this. These are both subjects I enjoy immensely. Unfortunately the book has a bad habit of raising interesting questions and then drifting away from them without addressing them satisfactorily. Gusty winds may exist.
This is the second time recently that I have been eagerly awaiting the release of an audiobook by an author whom I adore to listen to read his own material. Bill Bryson not narrating his last was a great let down, and now this. I suppose Chuck would say that this is a very "first world" problem, and he would be absolutely right. None the less, one of my great pleasures in life is listening to Chuck Klosterman reading his great writing. His delivery, comic timing, and unique tone are all perfect for his material. Alas, he seems to have retired his voice. I suppose I may have to learn to read!!!
Fiona does a fine job, and she is a nice narrator in her own right. However, it's just not the same without Klostermans voice.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ― Stephen R. Covey
I already bought and read the kindle version of this book -- I ONLY bought the audible version because I noticed Klosterman was one of the narrators. I love it when he reads his own work, because he usually drops in a lot of parenthetical asides, so it's like getting Bluray bonus features on a book you've already enjoyed.
This book is NOT "Narrated by Chuck Klosterman and Fiona Hardingham". This book is "Narrated by Fiona Hardingham (With an Introduction by Chuck Klosterman)". That is not a small difference. That is the difference between me spending or NOT spending $19 on a book I already own.
It's classic Chuck, but I just couldn't listen because of the narrator. I'm so used to hearing him read and chat on podcasts -- that it was jarring and odd to hear another person perform his work. Skip the audio book and pick up a hard copy.
I purchased this audiobook because I LOVE Klosterman. I realized 30 seconds into chapter 2, that what I LOVE, is Klosterman reading Klosterman. I am confident that Fiona Hardingham is a wonderful narrator but it feels jarring to hear her reading this material. I can only assume that the content is classic Klosterman but I cannot consume it in its current incarnation.
If Chuck would prefer us to read his work rather than listen to it he should have just said so.
She's a great vocalist and it was a great performance, but it was very strange to listen to Chuck Klosterman as-read by a female with a British accent. It's like an irreverent joke carried far past normal limits.
I am a huge Klosterman fan, but multiple times during this book I thought that he had either lost his touch or I was having a series of grand mal seizures. Chuck is great at microscopically thin-slicing a premise, dragging you through a labyrinth of seemingly unconnected thought-bites before expertly tying all the extraneous pieces together into a potentially worldview changing conclusion. Don't expect too much of that here. The vast majority of these thought experiments are discursive and left dangling, a maddening series of non-sequiturs. Even when he does close the loop it's mostly unsatisfying. He actually stated that Barack Obama was the greatest President during his lifetime because he was black and as a black man it was really difficult to get elected. True. But, for a guy who earns his living making fine distinctions, how could he not he not differentiate between getting elected President and actually being President. (And, unless you're 16 or under there is absolutely no way that you could make a substantive argument for Obama being the best during your lifetime).
Sure. Chuck is very talented and I'm sure he'll bounce back.
Having a British fembot read the book made the experience all but unbearable. Jane Austen, yes. Klosterman, no.
The narrator's plodding and pedantic style seemed to me to be antithetical to the author's lively thinking.
The question is interesting. I was expecting something along the lines of "Mistakes were made" or "Being Wrong". And there wasn't anything. The ability to string words together in a pleasant way does not substitute content. Firmly in the bottom 5% of books I ever came across.
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