Do Americans have culture?

Author Chuck Klosterman went to Germany to teach a college class.? He asked 100 college students which Americans interest them the most.

Here’s what happened: I’m teaching a class on twentieth-century popular culture at the University of Leipzig. I don’t know why the school asked me to do this, but it did. And it turns out that any seminar on U. S. consumer culture is extremely attractive to every non-American kid majoring in American studies, because ninety-six students signed up for the class in the span of three days. Due to the size of the classroom, I was forced to immediately reduce this number to twenty. I was unsure how to do that fairly, so I decided to give them a competitive online essay test before the first day of class. The question was this: “Who do you consider the most interesting twentieth-century American — not necessarily the most historically important, but the individual you find most personally compelling?” The responses were well written, habitually understated, and devoid of any pattern whatsoever.

Klosterman then goes on to include his findings, among them: Michael Jackson was the most frequently mentioned person, Dave Grohl got a vote but Kurt Cobain did not, Jared Leto (Jodran Catalano!) got one mention, the only presidents mentioned were Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon, George Gershwin received the second-most mentions, and so forth.

He mentions that this test was interesting because it demonstrated how American culture and mass media has proliferated our culture to the point that it is impossible to tell the difference between what information is interesting and what information is available.

In typical Klosterman fashion, though, he does a reverse-double-take and manages to posit that American culture is both interesting and uninteresting.? Truly, he should be a politician, because every essay he writes ends with him taking both positions of an argument.? Or as I like to call it: “It’s a klosterman.”

Can’t end this post without mentioning the funniest bit in the entire thing.? This is probably only interesting to Ryan Adams fans, unless of course it’s interesting to everyone (see a poorly executed klosterman).

Someone selected Ryan Adams. This made me happy for two reasons. The first is that I suspect Adams is something of an underrated semi-genius, and I like the fact that he’s more appreciated in places where nobody cares whether or not Paul Westerberg hates him. The other reason is that I think there’s probably a 98 percent likelihood that Ryan Adams will read this sentence, put down the magazine, walk over to his four-track, and immediately write a psychedelic country song titled “Hey Little Leipzig Girl (I’m Glad You Dug Those Whiskeytown Bootlegs),” which I will be able to listen to on the Internet forty minutes from right now.

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