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Chuck Klosterman On Villains And His New Book

Chuck Klosterman's new book, I Wear the Black Hat, delves into society's baddy obsession.

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I WEAR THE BLACK HAT: GRAPPLING WITH VILLAINS (REAL AND IMAGINED). SCRIBNER, $29

 

For his fourth book of essays, the cultural anthropologist—and New York Times Magazine “Ethicist”—writes about the characters that fascinate him most: villains. We asked him to explain why we’re mad for meth makers, rakes and ruthless meanies:

“Villains are people who know the most but care the least. That’s what separates a villain from a ‘normal’ bad person. “If you’re going to be interested in art, there’s a social contract that you’ll support the protagonist… but [now] there’s a much greater willingness to accept that the difference between being a good person and a bad person is less clear. “When you’re young, you like heroic fifigures; when you grow older, you tend to gravitate toward villains. They represent an awareness of what actions mean, and, as a normal person ages, you become more con- scious of what you do and how you act, and the reality of what life is like. I also suspect that, as you continue aging, you [move] back the other way. Being interested in villainy is a 25-to-55-year-old’s problem.”

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