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Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto Hardcover – August 26, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

There's quite a bit of intelligent analysis and thought-provoking insight packed into the pages of Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, which is a little surprising considering how darn stupid most of Klosterman's subject matter actually is. Klosterman, one of the few members of the so-called "Generation X" to proudly embrace that label and the stereotypical image of disaffected slackers that often accompanies it, takes the reader on a witty and highly entertaining tour through portions of pop culture not usually subjected to analysis and presents his thoughts on Saved by the Bell, Billy Joel, amateur porn, MTV's The Real World, and much more. It would be easy in dealing with such subject matter to simply pile on some undergraduate level deconstruction, make a few jokes, and have yourself a clever little book. But Klosterman goes deeper than that, often employing his own life spent as a member of the lowbrow target demographic to measure the cultural impact of his subjects. While the book never quite lives up to the use of the word "manifesto" in the title (it's really more of a survey mixed with elements of memoir), there is much here to entertain and illuminate, particularly passages on the psychoses and motivations of breakfast cereal mascots, the difference between Celtic fans and Laker fans, and The Empire Strikes Back. Sections on a Guns n' Roses tribute band, The Sims, and soccer feel more like magazine pieces included to fill space than part of a cohesive whole. But when you're talking about a book based on a section of cultural history so reliant on a lack of attention span, even the incongruities feel somehow appropriate. --John Moe --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

There's a lot more cold cereal than sex or drugs in Klosterman's nostalgic, patchy collection of pop cultural essays, which, despite sparks of brilliance, fails to cohere. Having graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1994, Klosterman (Fargo Rock City) seems never to have left that time or place behind. He is an ironically self-aware, trivia-theorizing, unreconstructed slacker: "I'm a `Gen Xer,' okay? And I buy shit marketed to `Gen Xers.' And I use air quotes when I talk.... Get over it." The essay topics speak for themselves: the Sims, The Real World, Say Anything, Pamela Anderson, Billy Joel, the Lakers/Celtics rivalry, etc. The closest Klosterman gets to the 21st century is Internet porn and the Dixie Chicks. This is a shame, because he's is a skilled prose stylist with a witty, twisted brain, a photo-perfect memory for entertainment trivia and has real chops as a memoirist. The book's best moments arrive when he eschews argumentation for personal history. In "George Will vs. Nick Hornby," a tired screed against soccer suddenly comes to life when Klosterman tells the story of how he was fired from his high school summer job as a Little League baseball coach. The mothers wanted their sons to have equal playing time; Klosterman wanted "a run-manufacturing offensive philosophy modeled after Whitey Herzog's St. Louis Cardinals." In a chapter on relationships, Klosterman semi-jokes that he only has "three and a half dates worth of material." Remove all the dated pop culture analyses, and Klosterman's book has enough material for about half a really great memoir.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1st edition (August 26, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743236009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743236003
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (220 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #531,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chuck Klosterman is a New York Times bestselling author and a featured columnist for Esquire, a contributor to The New York Times Magazine, and has also written for Spin, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Believer, and ESPN.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

100 of 119 people found the following review helpful By Westley VINE VOICE on July 10, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs" is an essay collection that draws comparisons between popular culture and important social and interpersonal issues. It also happens to be extremely witty at times. Chuck Klosterman is a writer for Spin magazine, so he clearly knows pop culture and can write quality essays. The best of his work here truly encapsulates life. Who cannot relate to this quote? - "Every relationship is fundamentally a power struggle, and the individual in power is whoever likes the other person less." That profundity, by the way, is from an essay that discusses the merits of "When Harry Met Sally"; another section proffers the genius of Billy Joel. Yes, Klosterman is a bit of a hipster geek.
Pop culture references are sprinkled throughout the book, but sometimes it stretches a bit too much for the sake of a clever analogy. In the forward, Klosterman assserts that, at times, he feels as though "everything is completely connected." Unfortunately, he is not adept enough to make all of his essays into a cohesive whole (as other reviewers have noted). Ultimately, the book feels like a loose collection of unrelated but very funny skits. Although that debit doesn't sink the book, it does lessen its impact. In addition, Klosterman is sometimes too self-aware for his own good; several times, he makes reference to liking something "unironically" - such as "Saved by the Bell." His definitive goal seems to be achieving irony. While this credo certainly makes "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs" a funny read, it can become rather tedious as well. Overall, I'd recommend this book, but with reservations.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By BrainiacRK on December 17, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is terrible. Klosterman starts out with a few pages eluding to the fact that he is so superficially witty that he has been able to fool several attractive women into sleeping with him despite the fact that he apparently isn't attractive. Congrats, buddy. I suppose his goal here was to assure the reader that he is absolutely shallow enough to cash in on this book despite its weak material. I guess, at the very least, that's a trait I can identify with.

Anyway, each chapter in this book contains a fairly self contained essay that is meant to examine a particular aspect of American culture as compared to, affected by, and/or resulting from a particular piece of pop culture. Unfortunately, Klosterman's understanding of most topics (both the deeper social topics he tries to explore and the actual pop culture references) is as superficial as his wit.

Basically, you could break the entire content of this book down into one sentence; stupid people emulate what they see on TV because they are often also shallow and because their lives suck. Add in about two hundred pages of topical references you won't understand unless you're between the ages of 30 - 35 and sentences along the lines of 'I'm not cool but here is what a cool, ironic person would say about this topic, which just happens to be the same opinion I hold, or maybe I don't' and you'll be readily prepared for the content of this book.
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62 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Audrey on May 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
Klosterman is constantly making references to conversations he's had at parties, which is appropriate since there seems to be a "Klosterman" at every hipster party I've ever been to... The guy who is funny for the first five minutes you meet him, interesting for the next ten, and then offensively pedantic and self absorbed for the next three hours before you realize you're really either too old or too well adjusted to keep going to these damn hipster parties in the first place.
I only finished this book out of a sense of duty to the 9 dollars and 99 cents I spent to download this adolescent diatribe to my Nook. Klosterman's an intellectual lightweight with a Mohammad Ali sized personality, which is why the ideas in the book are forgettable , but the voice of the author sticks with you like gum on the bottom of your shoe. I felt like I was stuck in a room with Rush Limbaugh, if Rush Limbaugh was a tad funnier and a tad smarter but just as obnoxious, sexist, solipsistic, and frivolous.
Do not buy this book. Go to the book store, skim the essay about The Sims (which, like so many of these essays, already feels dated but, unlike the rest, is actually though-provoking), and move on with your life and your wallet.
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Glad this was a collection of essays, rather than a novel. I don't think I would have been able to make it through a novel of this type of writing. Also made it easy to read while on the pot.
The essays start out with brilliance (especially the first two, about romance and The Sims, respectively), but my interest in them fizzled out. There are a few bright points here and there in the remaining essays (the essay about serial killers and our fascination with them is dead on). There is no doubt Klosterman is an adept writer, can pinpoint emotions, and locate intermittently with a witty finger the pulse of certain social issues (like what the hell tribute bands are all about and WHY). But the tone in which he does so is sometimes reminiscent shall I put it? A smart-ass thirty-year-old who thinks he is very clever with his observations, and justifies it by saying he is a Gen X'er and entitled to his lofty superiority. In other words, if you read Klosterman, you're just the type of person he'd look down on.
In trying to deconstruct pop culture, Klosterman sometimes comes across as believing himself an expert about everything American. He also has no qualms about insulting outright the very audience reading his book. Even though he jokes in the beginning that he writes these things late at night in a state of near-delirium, you still get the impression he thinks he is, as he might put it, the "uber-mensch".
Some of the essays are so specialized that I had absolutely no interest in reading them, and skipped right over them as I realized the entire essay was absorbed in deconstructing, say, basketball heroes. So I can't really say I enjoyed the entire book - some of it was unintelligible to me; hence, 3 stars (IMHO).
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