I received definitive word today that Chuck Klosterman will be an artist-in-residence at UCA in the fall. (Although that sounds like he'll be hanging out for the whole semester teaching and hanging out in the office and whatnot, it's actually a glorified campus visit that includes holding a couple of special classes.)
It was exciting to see him on the list of possibilities provided to us as co-sponsorship opportunities by the College of Fine Arts and Communication. Noel and I have been assigning his books in our classes on popular culture for several years now. I always point out to wide-eyed students that the blurb on the front cover of their paperback Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs -- "ONE OF THE BRIGHTEST PIECES OF POP ANALYSIS TO APPEAR THIS CENTURY" -- was written by Noel.
Now the task becomes creating advertising and word-of-mouth that will turn out 200+ students for his public lecture. I plan to comb his ouevre for provocative quotations to be turned into fliers and posters. With the right promotion, we can generate huge buzz and pack the medium-sized room we've booked. Thinking back to our experience hosting Slavoj Zizek in fall 2006 -- a name that most Arkansas college students had never heard before we started blitzing them with information -- I believe we can make it work.
Most exciting, of course, is that he'll be doing a talk or roundtable or Q&A especially for Honors students. For that, I plan to post longer selections or even whole essays on our online community, so that students who haven't been in my classes and been assigned "Every Drunk Must Have His Drink" can get his writing style and approach to pop culture under their belts before the event.
Noel's 2006 interview with Klosterman points out that he's dismissed and even actively reviled by many in the critical community. But I've always loved his tendentious, unapologetic, and yet self-aware championing of the disreputable. It's exactly what I'm looking for from my students: writing that offers a discursive argument in support of a surprising thesis, no objection left overturned and no weakness left unacknowledged.