cover image I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined)

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

Chuck Klosterman. Scribner, $25.00 (224pp) ISBN 978-1-4391-8449-3

Klosterman’s latest exercise in pop-culture-infused philosophical acrobatics is an exploration of villainy, or rather, “the presentation of material” on the subject. Basically, the premise gives the veteran author (Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs) and current “Ethicist” for the New York Times Magazine an excuse to tackle an array of subjects ranging from Machiavelli (whose biggest crime was turning “an autocratic template into entertainment”) to 1980s N.Y.C. subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz, who could have been a superhero if he had just kept his mouth shut. “Every forthcoming detail about his life—even the positive ones—made his actions on the subway seem too personal,” Klosterman writes. His circuitous arguments are occasionally self-indulgent and too reminiscent of David Foster Wallace, but the writing is always intellectually vigorous and entertaining. According to Klosterman, being the villain is about knowing the most but caring the least, which has as much to do with self-awareness and public perception as the act itself. Agent: Daniel Greenbert, Levine Greenberg Agency. (July)