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Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto Paperback – July 2, 2004
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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
The Onion a.v. club One of the brightest pieces of pop analysis to appear this century.
GQ Quintessential Klosterman -- sometimes exasperating but almost always engaging.
San Francisco Chronicle The reigning Kasparov of pop culture wits-matching.
The Washington Post Maddeningly smart and funny...[Klosterman's] good humor, compassion, and raw associative powers put him in the same league as Nick Hornby and Douglas Coupland, though he's a more tenacious critic than either.
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Like most collections of essays, this book is pretty uneven. That's to be expected. Klosterman is at his best (and funniest) when writing about sports and music, the two topics he knows the most about and has the most professional experience with. The essay on a Guns N' Roses tribute band was sympathetic and spot-on, for example, and dovetails with many of my own experiences having seen and interacted with many tribute bands in the New York City. area. And speaking of New York, Billy Joel should really send Klosterman at least one fruit basket a year for the thoughtful analysis of "The Nylon Curtain" that appears early in this book because - unlike most Rolling Stone critics - Klosterman not only has listened to the album multiple times but gets what Billy Joel was trying to do better than anyone else. If you're a Billy Joel fan, you'll want to buy this book for that alone.
As for the worst moments? I think I have read enough anecdotes about Klosterman's undergraduate days in this book to last me a lifetime. He also does not really seem to understand science-fiction, which is not a serious flaw except that an entire chapter is devoted to a defense of the "Vanilla Sky" film that keeps veering into fairly superficial Philosophy for Dummies. There are no deep insights here, because this isn't really a manifesto.
Given how many of the topics that Klosterman obsesses over in these essays seem like artifacts from an alternate universe from a more modern perspective ("Vanilla Sky," "Saved by the Bell", some low-budget Rapture films, Pamela Anderson's sex tape, the Dixie Chicks), the book itself accidentally makes a brilliant point. The world that Klosterman wrote about at the turn of the 21st century is as different from 2017 as 1955 was to 1975. Ironically, some of what Klosterman includes here - namely internet pornography and reality television - seem just as topical today. And, if you look close enough, there is an undercurrent of the cultural divide between what we now call Red States and Blue States presented in a mostly nonconfrontational way.
If you're familiar with the pop culture that Klosterman uses as touchstones, and you're willing to read a book of essays which you may not always agree with, you're going to enjoy sections of this book. If you hate pop culture, you're not going to get anything out of this.
The book covers a variety of topics, from serial killers to the Lakers/Celtics rivalry to breakfast cereal to Billy Joel to "The Real World," and makes an attempt at finding deeper meaning in all of these things. The collection starts out strong with a rant on why John Cusack has ruined the love lives of everyone (men and women) born between 1965 and 1978. This is funny and promising to anyone who feels similarly.
The biggest downside of this collection is that Klosterman's writing and his skill at making a coherent point are highly variable. Some essays were very strong and cohesive ("What Happens When People Stop Being Polite," on The Real World series; "All I Know Is What I Read in the Papers," on the media and why it works; "This is Zodiac Speaking," on serial killers; "How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found, on born-again Christianity), and I definitely laughed out loud several times. Other essays ("Every Dog Must Have His Every Day..." on the genius of Billy Joel; "Ten Seconds to Love," comparing Pam Anderson to Marilyn Monroe; "33" on the Lakers/Celtics rivalry) were incoherent and rambling. Klosterman insists that everything is connected and really does set out to connect, well, everything. He sometimes succeeds and sometimes I was left thinking that this is a man who likes the sound of his own voice (or pen, as it were) and tries to make a lot of pseudo-intellectual (or maybe even true intellectual references) to make the reader believe that what he's saying actually makes sense. The collection improves significantly at the last three or four essays, and I felt that Klosterman dropped any pretension or self-satisfaction and just wrote, which worked a lot better.
I definitely feel that someone born in 1980 or earlier would enjoy this collection as a whole, but I would definitely recommend skimming or skipping the ones on topics in which the reader is less than interested.
Most recent customer reviews
Crossed over from irreverent, interesting personal observations/social commentary to somewhat condensing life coach a bit too often to be truly enjoyable.