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"The Visible Man" and beyond: A Collection Of Quotes from Chuck Klosterman

Updated on March 25, 2017

Author Chuck Klosterman


Year ago a friend mentioned that she reading Chuck Klosterman’s essay collection “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs.” At that time I was intrigued mostly because he, like me, is a native of North Dakota. Within a few pages of this collection, however, I was engaged for other reasons. He has a sometimes wacky way of analyzing pop culture, human behavior, and the things we frequently take for granted—such as why we like watching sports, or the fact that having more choices should make us happier (even when it often doesn’t)—which bewilders and fascinates me in unequal measure. He has the uncanny ability to take a topic such as MTV’s “The Real World” and discuss it in a way which is simultaneously irreverent and profound.

Chuck Klosterman is the author of eight books. Two of these, “The Visible Man” and “Downtown Owl,” are novels. The rest are essay collections: “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto,” “I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined),” “IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas,” “Eating the Dinosaur,” “Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story,” and “Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Medal Odyssey In Rural North Dakota.”

“Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs” was the first book of his I read, and in the years since the only books of his I haven’t read are “Fargo Rock City” and “I Wear the Black Hat.” Give me time and I’ll likely crack open both of these volumes, as my affinity for and appreciation of Chuck Klosterman’s work is substantial. I’ve returned to him because he inspires me to reconsider long-established beliefs. Also, I enjoy the way he can discuss a subject I have little interest in—such as certain sports heroes—and make it interesting because of the oddball way he sees the world. In addition, I heard him speak at the University of North Dakota—which is also his alma matter—several years ago, and his dynamic presentation further cemented my interest in his work.

I’ve collected quotes from at least four of the books of his I’ve read, and I will share a sampling of them here. They are no substitute for reading the actual works, of course, and I hope you will consider checking out one of more of his books in the near future.


Quotes from “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs”:

“The main problem with mass media is that it makes it impossible to fall in love with any acumen of normalcy.”

“The Sims forces you to think about how even free people are eternally enslaved by the process of living.”

“One way or another, we all use our illusions.”

“So the rub is that I have these semicrital flaws and I have these weirdly specific gifts, and it seems like most Americans are similarly polarized by what they can (and cannot) do.”

“Important things are inevitably cliché.”

“Many people see their life as a job that they have to finish; if anything, they want their life to be less complicated than it is.”


Quotes from “IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas”:

“The problematic rub is that—over time—choice isolates us. We have fewer shared experiences, and that makes us feel alone. The proliferation of choice makes us feel vaguely alienated, and that makes us depressed. But this relationship is not something we’re conscious of, because it seems crazy to attribute loneliness to freedom. We just think we’re inexplicably less happy than we should be.”

“There is no feeling worse than betrayal; it is the most soul pulverizing of human sensations.”

“How important, ultimately, is likeability? Is being likable the most important quality someone can possess, or is it the most inherently shallow quality anyone can desire? Do we need to be liked, or do we merely want to be liked?”

“At some point, people confused being liked with being good. These two qualities are not the same. It’s important to be a good person; it’s not important to be a well-liked person.”

“…what I have slowly come to realize is that most people think this way all the time. They don’t merely want to hold their values; they want their values to win.”


Quotes from “The Visible Man”

“…gossipy people define themselves by who they ignore as much as by who they care about. You establish that delineation organically.”

“People will look at the world without seeing anything beyond their unconscious expectation.”

“Bruce had that sad, distant stare of a man who missed college too much.”

“One can easily fold obsessive self-absorption into the process of online communicating.”

“Because humans live finite lives, all technological advances immediately feel banal to whatever generation inherits their benefits.”

“People think about themselves constantly, but not in the way you imagine. The only time people are conscious of how they feel is when something hurts them.”

“Even the invisible are insecure. It’s the most universal problem we have. It’s so universal, it might not even count as a problem.”


Quotes from “Eating the Dinosaur”:

“Like so many modern people, my relationship with technology makes no sense whatsoever: It’s the most important aspect of my life that I hate. The more central it becomes to how I live, the worse it seems for the world at large. I believe all technology has a positive short-term effect and a negative long-term impact, and—on balance—the exponential upsurge or technology’s social import has been detrimental to the human experience.”

“People answer questions because it feels strange to do the opposite.”

“The defective practice of trying to understand the world by asking other people how they see it is still the best means we have for establishing a reality we can all agree to be real. We have to do it, because it’s better than nothing. It is, in fact, something. But that’s all it is: Something. Instead of nothing.”

“It doesn’t matter what you can do if you don’t know why you’re doing it.”

“Football allows the intellectual part of my brain to evolve, but it allows the emotional part to remain unchanged. It has a liberal cerebellum and a reactionary heart. And this is all I want from everything, all the time, always.”

“Very often, I don’t know what I think about something until I start writing about it.”


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    • Julie K Henderson profile image

      Julie K Henderson 2 years ago

      Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed the quotes.