The Visible Man: Chuck Klosterman’s Unseen Anti-Hero

Patrick McIntyre, Staff Writer


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Listening to music for a career has provided Chuck Klosterman with a sense of reality interwoven with pop culture. After so many years critiquing various mediums—music, film, the effects of Saved by the Bell reruns on society—a prominent question arises from his fiction: What is reality?

In his second novel, The Visible Man, Klosterman offers an intriguing image of how people really are, and whether or not that self is the true self. Written in a memoir format from the viewpoint of a young therapist, Victoria Vick, the book surveys her yearlong struggle with a patient. For privacy reasons, she only refers to this patient in the text as Y___. Vick is new in her field, lacks a PhD, and is often times overly gullible, so when Y___ claims to own a government-made suit that renders him invisible, she’s unable to fully grasp the situation. Regardless, she commits to professionalism and listens to the stories Y___ has to tell about his invisible endeavors, most of which involve voyeuristic escapades in the pursuit of a truer sense of how people are when they are alone. This is all Y___ really wants from Vick, an ear to listen to his stories; he is in no desire of counseling, and doesn’t believe he needs it.

Y___ spins his crude yet wildly interesting tales of the various people he has followed, and contrasts how his subjects acted alone to how they acted around other people. An unsuspecting girl’s eating disorder is examined in relation to her obsession with a weed/food/exercise trifecta; an uncomplicated young musician along with his heavy-set heavy-metal friends yields philosophical discussions of a crumbling world. Vick is increasingly drawn in as Y___ recalls each unseen expedition.

Klosterman establishes a perfect medium for his pop culture analysis. His characters have simplistic lives in the dark, and this exposes the relation of how music and films have influenced those darkened areas, but also the public self. The public’s perception of the Beatles is directly attributed to the fact that everybody likes them, so because of this they must be good. The context of this questioning is based on how people act and conform in public, and how their ‘real’ selves act in solitude. Do fans of the Beatles like them more when in public, or when they are alone?

This quandary of the true-self becomes increasingly more interesting to Vick, whose own life is soon affected by the questionable morals of her patient. She is attracted, yet repelled by him. Vick wavers between awe and staunch fear as Y___’s ‘reality’ inches closer to her life.

The Visible Man offers a deeper view into pop culture and its effects, a chief pursuit of Klosterman’s commendable career. What is ‘real’ if ‘real’ is impossible to define? The presentation of one’s self in a world of covers is inevitably a fabrication. And if that is true, then all we have left are the covers.