Klaus, Ian 1978- (Ian R. Klaus)
Klaus, Ian 1978- (Ian R. Klaus)
Born November 25, 1978, in Belvedere, CA; son of Robin (a salesman and horse breeder) and Patricia Klaus. Education: Attended Andover College; Washington University, graduated, 2001; attended Jesus College, Oxford; attending doctoral program at Harvard University.
Home—New York, NY; Cambridge, MA.
Salahaddin University, Arbil, Iraq, taught English and American history, 2005.
Named National Soccer Coaches of America Association/Adidas All-Midwest scholar-athlete second team, 1999; Rhodes scholarship, 2000; Bemis Fellowship; two prizes from the department of African and Afro-American studies, Washington University, for essays; GTE Academic All-American; All-University Athletic Association (UAA) selection; two-time all-UAA selection; three-time all-UAA academic selection.
Elvis Is Titanic: Classroom Tales from the Other Iraq, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2007.
Ian Klaus is sometimes recognized for being the former boyfriend of President Bill Clinton's daughter, Chelsea. The two met in England, where Klaus was attending Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar. They dated for several years until finally breaking up in 2005, mostly because the long distance relationship was not working after he left Oxford to teach in Kurdistan. Klaus would write about this experience in his first book, Elvis Is Titanic: Classroom Tales from the Other Iraq.
The son of a wealthy salesman who sold exercise equipment and ultimately went into raising horses for a living, Klaus was an avid soccer player in college. Winning a Rhodes scholarship in 2000, he attended Jesus College at Oxford. Klaus was inspired by the words of the man who endowed his scholarship, Cecil Rhodes, that people should "fight the world's fight." Taking this to heart, he determined to travel to Arbil, Iraq, and teach American history and English to the students at Salahaddin University. The isolated city is the largest city in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. An idealist, Klaus felt that he could share some of America and its beliefs with the young men and women struggling with the concept of a new democratic state. The title of his book comes from something one of his students said about music. While the young Iraqis had not heard of Frank Sinatra or the Beatles, they knew all about Elvis Presley and compared his success to the blockbuster film Titanic.
Klaus saw sharing pop culture about America to be a potentially effective way of bridging the gap with his students. He hoped, as well, that parallels might be drawn between American history, such as the civil rights movement, and what was going on in the ethnically and religiously divided Iraq. "Although well liked, Klaus finds his perspective frequently challenged by his students," related a Publishers Weekly critic. The reviewer went on to observe that audiences of Elvis Is Titanic may perceive a certain naïvete in Klaus's own faith in American capitalism, foreign policy, and democracy. His students, meanwhile, are perhaps more open-minded, and they are eager to learn English and about American culture, while justifiably angered over being occupied by a foreign power.
Critics of Elvis Is Titanic considered Klaus to be a strong writer covering an interesting subject, but were put off by what they sensed was a forced intellectualism. For example, Klaus frequently quotes from literary, political, and cultural giants such as Ernest Hemingway, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Thomas Jefferson, which Paste contributor Franklin Daugherty considered "tedious padding." Another problem, according to some, was that Klaus's book is set almost entirely within the classroom. Aaron Schulman, writing for AARP Magazine, averred that it takes a highly skilled author to make such a setting come alive. "With so much of the story taking place in the classroom, the problem isn't that he's a bad writer; rather, it's that he's not a great writer," wrote Schulman, who also noted that "clumsy hopscotching through time, space, and subject matter is periodically disorienting."
These criticisms aside, other reviewers were very appreciative of what Klaus attempts in his debut book. A Kirkus Reviews writer, who also took issue with the "pedantic exposition and lofty generalizations" found in the book, attested that the author is "at his best when simply capturing the voices of the Kurds and other nationals he encountered." In Booklist, Vanessa Bush declared Elvis Is Titanic to be an "engaging book" that "places his [Klaus's] experience within the broader context of history." Schulman considered one of the greatest values of the book to be that it "introduces the reader to an outstanding human being—the type of person this world needs more of."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
AARP Magazine, September, 2007, Aaron Schulman, review of Elvis Is Titanic: Classroom Tales from the Other Iraq.
Booklist, August, 2007, Vanessa Bush, review of Elvis Is Titanic, p. 13.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2007, review of Elvis Is Titanic.
Paste, September 17, 2007, Franklin Daugherty, review of Elvis Is Titanic.
People, September 12, 2005, "Split: Chelsea and Ian," p. 28.
Publishers Weekly, July 9, 2007, review of Elvis Is Titanic, p. 46.
USA Today, August 29, 2007, Carol Memmott, "‘Elvis’ Author Klaus Deserves Credit in His Own Write."
Artsopolis,http://www.artsopolis.com/ (September 19, 2007), review of Elvis Is Titanic.
Jossip,http://www.jossip.com/ (October 8, 2007), "Have You Seen ‘Chelsea Lately?’ Ian Klaus Has!"
Reality TV World,http://www.realitytvworld.com/ (September 1, 2005), "Report: Chelsea Clinton Splits with Boyfriend Ian Klaus."
Record,http://record.wustl.edu/ December 15, 2000, Gerry Everding, Tony Fitzpatrick, and Neil Schoenerr, "Two Students Named Rhodes Scholars."