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Pop culture journalist Chuck Klosterman visits IC

BY JORDAN MONTGOMERY | NOVEMBER 09, 2011 7:20 AM

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When Chuck Klosterman taught in Leipzig, Germany, he ruminated about the notion that perhaps a better way to understand human nature might be to observe people who don't know they are being observed.

This notion is one of the themes of his latest novel, The Visible Man. He will read from the book at 7 p.m. today in the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St., in an event cosponsored by the library and Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St.

"Readings by authors generally bring out large crowds [in Iowa City], especially authors who are as well-known as Klosterman," said Brian Visser of the Iowa City Public Library.

Klosterman, most notably known for his collection of essays on pop culture, Sex, Drugs, and Coco Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto, published his first work of fiction, Downtown Owl: A Novel, in 2008. The Visible Man is his second work of fiction.

"I would say fiction is harder than nonfiction because it takes more time," Klosterman said. "It's one thing to look at a table and describe the table in detail. It's another thing to fabricate a table out of nothing, to have a blank space in your mind and fill it in with a table that you need in the center of your story."

The story he fabricated in The Visible Man centers on a therapist's interactions with an unnamed man who can render himself invisible.

"I felt that if I wrote if from the invisible man's perspective, it would be too difficult to successfully illustrate the difference between what he wanted to believe and what actually happened," Klosterman said. "If it had just been from his perspective, it would have been a conventional unreliable narrator story."

The situations that the invisible man puts the therapist in causes her to question her own sanity.

"[The Visible Man] is his weirdest book by a long shot," said Paul Ingram of Prairie Lights.

Ingram said the book is spooky, and a very fast read because it is hard to put down. And after reading it, it was difficult for him to classify.

"It is a genre-bending book," Ingram said. "Some may classify it as sci-fi, horror, or fiction. But they never would get it right."

Klosterman's inspiration for The Visible Man came from rereading the H.G. Wells classic, The Invisible Man, while he was teaching an American studies course at the University of Leipzig.

"I wasn't so much taken by the plot as I was by the character," Klosterman said. "[I was taken by] the idea that a person with both the mental ability and the immorality to create invisibility would then employ it."

The Visible Man is Klosterman's seventh book in the past 10 years, and it seems he has no intention of slowing down.

"I don't know what else I would do if I wasn't writing," he said. "I don't know how I would spend my time. I feel like I would just spend all day doing nothing."


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