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BUT WHAT IF WE'RE WRONG? by Chuck Klosterman Kirkus Star


Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past

by Chuck Klosterman

Pub Date: June 7th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-399-18412-3
Publisher: Blue Rider Press

An inquiry into why we’ll probably be wrong about almost everything.

The ever smart, witty, and curious Klosterman (I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined), 2013, etc.) takes on the notion that it’s “impossible to understand the world of today until today has become tomorrow.” One might call that a “klosterism,” and the book is full of them. It’s also full of intelligence and insights, as the author gleefully turns ideas upside down to better understand them. Klosterman is currently obsessed with ideas that are so accepted we dare not dispute them—e.g., gravity. Once upon a time, Aristotle believed things didn’t float away because they were in their “natural place.” Then Newton came along 2,000 years later and changed the way we think. Then Einstein said gravity was really a warping of time and space. Now, scientists are trying to “rethink gravity itself.” Therefore, the author posits, in the future, whenever that may be, we’ll know we were wrong about whatever we thought “gravity” was back then. In each chapter, Klosterman takes on a different topic, applying “Klosterman’s Razor” to it: “the philosophical belief that the best hypothesis is the one that reflexively accepts its potential wrongness to begin with.” He seeks out a variety of experts to assist him. George Saunders and Franz Kafka help him sort out why future literary greats are “at the moment…either totally unknown or widely disrespected.” Physicists Neil deGrasse Tyson and Brian Greene help him explore the concept of a multiverse universe. Others assist Klosterman in taking on the future of rock ’n’ roll (“there are still things about the Beatles that can’t be explained”), time, dreams, democracy, TV shows (Roseanne is an overlooked work of “genius”), and sports. Klosterman is fond of lists and predictions. Here’s one: this book will become a popular book club selection because it makes readers think.

Replete with lots of nifty, whimsical footnotes, this clever, speculative book challenges our beliefs with jocularity and perspicacity.