I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined) is essentially a series of essays by Chuck Klosterman. Klosterman’s unifying theme is that he tries to investigate the appeal and motivations of various “villains” in a sociological framework. While the cover of the book is awesome, I Wear the Black Hat is ultimately a wasted opportunity.
When I realized that this book existed, I immediately picked up a copy. Even from a young age, I always felt that villains were far more compelling than heroes. As far as I was concerned, the Joker stole every scene in episodes of Batman. That is not to say that I want the villains to succeed but that they are simply far more interesting. Although in all honesty, I always wanted (still want) a legion of generically nameless thugs to do my bidding.
Klosterman’s essays are rather scatter-brained in the sense that I did not always feel that his essays helped to prove his assertions regarding villains. He refers to himself far too often and does not rely on factual arguments as much as would be appropriate in a book of this type. Whether the individuals that he writes about are even perceived as villains or not is really a matter of personal perspective. He could have selected many better and wider variety of “villains” to analyze.
My main disappointment, however, is that Klosterman hardly ever references fictional villains. For whatever reason, probably because of the subtitle that refers to villains that are “real and imagined,” I expected an analysis of characters like Professor Moriarty or Lucifer from Paradise Lost. Instead, Klosterman’s essays focus on real life individuals who are supposedly perceived as villains such as Kayne West (fair enough) or Joe Paterno. Klosterman also hedges his bets quite often and uses many qualifiers. He actually includes a note in his essay regarding Kayne West and LeBron James that explicitly states that he does not know how well his essay is going! His uncertainly makes me wonder if he really knows what he is writing about at all.
In short, I Wear the Black Hat is simply not what I expected. Klosterman’s essays are enjoyable to a certain extent, but ultimately fall short of the mark. I do not recommend this book to anyone, unless you are a fan of rambling essays without a clear purpose.