Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

ISBN: 0743236017
ISBN 13: 9780743236010
By: Chuck Klosterman

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About this book

Countless writers and artists have spoken for a generation, but no one has done it quite like Chuck Klosterman. With an exhaustive knowledge of popular culture and an almost effortless ability to spin brilliant prose out of unlikely subject matter, Klosterman attacks the entire spectrum of postmodern America: reality TV, Internet porn, Pamela Anderson, literary Jesus freaks, and the real difference between apples and oranges (of which there is none). And don't even get him started on his love life and the whole Harry-Met-Sally situation. Whether deconstructing Saved by the Bell episodes or the artistic legacy of Billy Joel, the symbolic importance of The Empire Strikes Back or the Celtics/Lakers rivalry, Chuck will make you think, he'll make you laugh, and he'll drive you insane -- usually all at once. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs is ostensibly about art, entertainment, infotainment, sports, politics, and kittens, but -- really -- it's about us. All of us. As Klosterman realizes late at night, in the moment before he falls asleep, "In and of itself, nothing really matters. What matters is that nothing is ever 'in and of itself.'" Read to believe.

Reader's Thoughts

Bryce Wilson

I've avoided reading Chuck Klosterman for the same reason I avoid punching babies in the face. It just seemed too easy. Did I really need to read another weary Gen Xer obsessing over the minutia of Pop Culture and then obsess over why they're obessing. Were Nick Hornby, Sara Vowell, David Sedaris, Nathin Rabin, and countless others truly not up to the task? Was there truly such a void in my soul calling out for another pretentious post modernist to come and suck all the fun out of everything? Had I not learned my lesson from the testicle shriveling anti-prose waking nightmare that was "Nobody Belongs Here More Then You?"No, I was not particularly looking forward to jumping on the back of another Hipster Sacred Cow. I feared another book of clever oh so affected but oh so uneffected prose might actually kill me. And the fact that I could still hear the publishers orgasm after receiving a title as marketable as Sex Death And Cocoa Puffs did nothing to allay my fears.It turns out that my fear was unfounded. While Klosterman is too pretentious, post modern and overly analytical he is also fun, in possession of a mean sense of self deprecative wit and keen sense of the absurd. While some of the essays on SDACP do take the fine art of navel gazing to unheard of extremes (Pamela Anderson article I'm looking at you). Others manage to dissect modern culture with a surprisingly sharp and dare I say even level headed style. Whether it's formulating a surprisingly believable hypothesis that Breakfast cereal commercials are responsible for the existence of hipsters, explaining why soccer will never be popular, or examining the paradox of "authenticity" in country music Klosterman serves as a witty guide through the madness of modern life.

Marcus

This book started out great...nice and insightful...As it progressed, however, I've found myself removing stars from the rating. He tries too hard to tie everything up in a neat little bow...every essay has to end with a witty little wrap-up sentence, dripping with a false poignancy, essentially wrapping it up with his original statement. It started feeling as formulaic as pop music. It was when I got to Toby vs Moby that I found myself closing the book, and throwing it across the room. He stretches pretty far throughout his essays to make a point that isn't always there, but this one...When he had the audacity to tell me that the Dixie Chicks are more talented and relevant to music than the whole of the grunge era, when he proclaimed that pop country trumps alt country I began wondering where his head was, exactly. Then I flipped the book over and realized he's a writer for SPIN magazine, and it all made sense. He's so quick to discount so many people's taste as some sort of a hipster fashion accessory; if you listen to Hank Senior, you're a poser, if you listen to alt country, you're a poser earning $56k+ a year with no true understanding of the working class. I'm sure I'll finish the book eventually, but I'm wary of it all, now.I was willing to take his hatred of the Lakers with a grain of salt, but when he tries to tell me that the Dixie Chicks are the Van Halen of the next generation...Jesus.

Jen Estrella

Okay so I get what Klosterman is doing here, and I can see how plenty of people actually like it. But I did.not.dig.Actually, that is one of my nonsensical pet peeves in my books. Even when I am reading contemporary fiction which one would pretty much assume would have modern references, it just annoys me when author's mention things like Facebook, or IG, or Twitter, or even things like iPods, Jamba Juice, Beyonce, Twilight, etc. I don't exactly know why, but I just think that we can do without going so far as to cite things by name. Plenty of authors manage just fine without, I've always felt that it sorta detracts from the story, even from the very sentence itself. It's like…distracting. A substitution for a thought. So knowing that I feel this way about the smallest reference, then one can imagine how and why I would have such a poor reaction to Klosterman. Yes, I understand that the whole modern culture thing is the whole gosh darn point of the book. To poke fun, analyze, criticize all the craziness that is modern culture. But I had to literally force myself to get thru this. It was alright for about ONE chapter, after that it got tiresome, redundant, excessive, and then just down right annoying! When I don't like the first book I read by an author who comes highly recommended and who is revered by a significant amount of people, I usually am open to giving the author another chance with another read of a different book. People don't always like every single thing an adored author writes after all. But in this case, I will absolutely not be picking up anything by him ever again. I absolutely hated every single minute of this book, and even tho Klosterman's covers can be bright and aesthetically appealing, I will not make the same mistake twice. There is no way I will ever again waste precious reading time on this man. Tho I don't regret reading this, if only to have discovered that Klosterman is not my type.And despite all this, despite my genuine dislike of the book…I can still see how it would appeal to others. To each his own.

Laura Motta

The thing about Chuck Klosterman is that he's wrong about almost everything. Of course, in this book, he cops to this immediately -- literally within the first ten pages -- as though he's disclaiming everything he's about to say. Then he extrapolates his wrongness out to the universe at large, declaring that everyone is, in fact, wrong about everything. That's the general gist of this book. In this uneven -- and occasionally very funny -- collection of pop culture essays, Chuck shares his thoughts the universe and then expects the universe to nod in agreement. Unfortunately, many of those ideas are not especially original. If you like pop culture and are of a certain age, for example, there is nothing in his essay about Saved by the Bell that you haven't discussed before over beers. As I mentioned, though, Chuck can be very funny. His wry observations on crappy bands, hipsters, sissy sports, and breakfast cereal are shrewd and hilarious, and this collection is at its best when it's aiming at humor and not deeper meaning.

Antisocialite

If I met Chuck Klosterman, I would probably end up attempting to pick a fistfight with him. I say "attempting" because I don't know whether he hits girls. And I say "probably" because, for all I know, he may be far less infuriating in person than he is in print.A lot of space in this book is aimed at mocking the pretensions of people who, I admit, sound an awful lot like me: decently-educated, irony-clad, pop-culture obsessed twentysomethings who deride popular country music and remember Jessie Spano's dramatic struggle with caffeine addiction.Maybe I'm a little touchy about being mocked. Especially since Klosterman goes to great lengths to include plenty of self-mockery. I guess what I find grating in his form of judgment is the way his conceits are flouted as endearing quirks, while those he does not possess are somehow extrapolated into indications of deep character flaws -- assuming anyone so shallow could be anything "deep." I'm sorry if my intense dislike of Toby Keith makes me an unforgivable cultural elitist, but I think his jingoistic, truck-commercial-friendly output is unlistenable crap. But back to getting into a fistfight with Chuck Klosterman. The thing is, I really enjoyed reading this book, despite intensely disagreeing with much of it. And perhaps because of it: I think I would be willing to trade in my imaginary fistfight for a solid argument over a few beers. It says something that this book made me evaluate my views, and, as a bonus, was so well-written that I not only actually read the chapters about sports, I enjoyed them. It scared me a little.

Weston Locher

I'd heard a lot of good things about Klosterman's Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, so I was eager to get my hands on it. However, just several essays deep, I came to the realization that the thoughts and messages in his essays weren't anything that I hadn't heard before from my buddies who would begin pontificating about similar topics after a few too many drinks.Desperately awaiting a laugh out loud moment, I was only disappointed as each long and drawn out essay led into the next in a series of name drops, pointless ramblings, and hypocritical slams on the hipsters of the world.I made nearly all the way through the book, however by the time I reached the third to last story, I realized that it had become a chore to read the book. I had spent so much time wanting to like it, but less than 30 pages from the end, I realized that I didn't like it and questioned why I was forcing myself to finish it.While I enjoyed some of his tales, I wasn't able to find this collection funny, and I could only take so much of one many looking for deeper meaning in mediums like Saved By the Bell and Star Wars.If you used to do a lot of drugs in college, and are looking to recapture the same feeling that you had back then of thinking that things are truly deeper and more important than they actually are, then this will probably become your bible, however, if you're looking for smart comedy (as this book was advertised to me), I'd consider looking elsewhere.Though I don't think that Klosterman is as funny as he probably thinks he is, in his defense, he was the only guy smart enough to take all of the mundane and pointless conversations that we have with our friends at the bar, write them all down, and make a couple of bucks in the process.

Marisa

Any book that begins with an amusing foray into the ways in which Lloyd Dobler has effectively destroyed the author's chance for real love (and perhaps the fake kind too) is a book that I immediately want to like. However, Klosterman essentially reels you in with his lighthearted, self-effacing opener only to assault you with a series of overgeneralized, matter-of-fact (yet largely unsupported) assertions about human behavior in the essays that follow.While several of his essays offer moments of insight and wit, what makes the majority of his analyses of pop-culture and social behavior difficult to digest is the obnoxious (and at times, pseudo-intellectual) tone with which they are delivered. You sort of get the feeling that his ability to skillfully deconstruct pop-culture has led him to believe that he is an expert in all things American. What's worse is that he seems to want you to believe it too. That said, if you can look beyond the grating tone of these essays and accept Klosterman's musings as nothing more than one man's opinions--and relatively inconsequential ones at that, then you might be able to enjoy some of the entertaining and bizarrely funny anecdotes that are offered throughout his self-described "manifesto."

Alana

It's not that I didn't like this book... Okay, that's exactly what it is. But the real issue I had with Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs is this: I've either had every conversation in this book (which I enjoyed more than these essay versions of them) or I've walked away from the conversation because it didn't interest me in the slightest. I can name at least ten people I know who could have written this book (give or take an article or two), and probably could have written it better (including the person whose choice this book is for my book club). I didn't dislike it all, though. It was amusing in parts. It's just that I didn't find it to be wonderfully clever even though it was clearly trying very hard to be. I could talk a lot about why I didn't like this book for little reasons, but on the whole, I think my distaste for it was rooted in the fact that I couldn't simply read it at my leisure, picking it up and putting it down to read a single article and then switch to something else, because we're reading this for book club and thus my reading has a deadline. Had I been able to just skip an article (such as the mind-numbing article on basketball) or stop reading one (like when he made repetitive references to Sigur Ros and Devo as though they were symbols of uniqueness, only to make them ordinary by constantly referencing them) so I could move on to something else or read an essay every few days, then I probably would have a kinder outlook on this book. But here's the kicker as to why I can't simply dismiss this book. Do you know the game "Table Topics"? Or have you read the If...? books? They work on the same premise... posing a "what if" kind of question that you're supposed to then discuss with people. This may seem lame, because it implies that you can't have a natural conversation with your friends without the assistance of cards, but I found them amusing in college... and probably still would, given a particularly creative bunch of friends and a few bottles of wine. "If you could only listen to one album again for the rest of your life, what would it be?" "If you had to kill an innocent person to end world hunger, could you?" "If you were exiled from your current country, what new country would you pick as your new home?" "Which famous dead person would you most want to have a dinner conversation with?" "If you could either sleep with one famous person and never tell anyone or give the impression of a deep and loving relationship to the world but never actually sleep with them... which scenario would you pick?" (I actually think he did pose this question somewhere in the book...)Anyway... there's one "essay" in this book that's my favorite part, not just because it's funny, but because it seems like it unwittingly captures the whole essence of the other articles -- or at least distills what good this book can accomplish. It's a small section of twenty three questions that the author would pose to a person and their answers would determine whether or not this could be his soulmate. Think of Table Topic and If...? questions (like those above) and multiply them by ten on a specific and weird scale... then you'd get the kind of questions that he asks. For example, here's a fairly ordinary but still interesting one:Every person you have ever slept with is invited to a banquet where you are the guest of honor. No one will be in attendance except you, the collection of your former lovers, and the catering service. After the meal, you are asked to give a fifteen-minute speech to the assembly. What do you talk about?And here's a weird one that I quite enjoy:Defying all expectation, a group of Scottish marine biologists capture a live Loch Ness Monster. In an almost unbelievable coincidence, a bear hunter in the Pacific Northwest shoots a Sasquatch in the thigh, thereby allowing zoologists to take the furry monster into captivity. These events happen on the same afternoon. That evening, the president announces he may have thyroid cancer and will undergo a biopsy later that week. You are the front page editor of The New York Times: What do you play as the biggest story? And one more for kicks:Someone builds and optical portal that allows you to see a vision of your own life in the future (it’s essentially a crystal ball that shows a randomly selected image of what your life will be like in twenty years). You can only see into this portal for thirty seconds. When you finally peer into the crystal, you see yourself in a living room, two decades older than you are today. You are watching a Canadian football game, and you are extremely happy. You are wearing a CFL jersey. Your chair is surrounded by books and magazines that promote the Canadian Football League, and there are CFL pennants covering your walls. You are alone in the room, but you are gleefully muttering about historical moments in Canadian football history. It becomes clear that—for some unknown reason—you have become obsessed with Canadian football. And this future is static and absolute; no matter what you do, this future will happen. The optical portal is never wrong. This destiny cannot be changed. The next day, you are flipping through television channels and randomly come across a pre-season CFL game between the Toronto Argonauts and the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Knowing your inevitable future, do you now watch it? Okay, last one, for real:Let us assume you met a rudimentary magician. Let us assume he can do five simple tricks--he can pull a rabbit out of his hat, he can make a coin disappear, he can turn the ace of spades into the Joker card, and two others in a similar vein. These are his only tricks and he can't learn any more; he can only do these five. HOWEVER, it turns out he's doing these five tricks with real magic. It's not an illusion; he can actually conjure the bunny out of the ether and he can move the coin through space. He's legitimately magical, but extremely limited in scope and influence. Would this person be more impressive than Albert Einstein? These make me think that Chuck Klosterman missed his true calling as a "Table Topics for Gen X" writer. ALL of his essays seem to serve one purpose for me: they're mildly interesting, but they make me think of more interesting things that I then actually want to discuss with other people. Weirdest thing of all, but I actually think this might be a good book for discussion at book club... not for discussing the merits of the book, but because Klosterman's random topics (the true meaning of Saved by the Bell, the weird interest he has in people who have met serial killers and lived, etc.) will hopefully inspire other things we want to talk about in the Table Topics sense of things.My mother tried to make the point that perhaps Klosterman was really intending to inspire conversation with these topics. At first, I found it hard to believe that Klosterman, who writes about saved by the Bell and cartoon cereal characters, is really trying to inspire discussion... but that's totally it. I might find his writing to be somewhat lacking, but he really is creating a jumping-off-point for people who might find these topics to be of interest. So Klosterman, despite all of the complaints I have, I give you three stars.Oh, and if you don't pick the Loch Ness Monster, then I don't understand what you could possibly be thinking.

Dan Schwent

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto is a collection of essays by Chuck Klosterman. It's also one of the rare books I'm not really sure how to review or even rate.Chuck's essays cover such diverse topics as how the movies and TV are giving people unrealistic expectations about life and love, serial killers, the relationship between Reality Bites and The Empire Strikes Back, and that weird half season of Saved by the Bell that had that leather jacket wearing girl instead of Kelly and Jessie.All of the essays within are peppered with Klosterman's insights and observations. Some of them are hilarious, like all women being in love with John Cusack and how the Lakers vs. The Celtics was really different social strata of Americans. Others feel a little too self-important to me and therefore aren't as enjoyable, kind of like watching an interview with Quentin Tarantino and enjoying his movies slightly less the next time you watch them.The back cover of my edition mentions Nick Hornby and Douglas Coupland, and I can understand the comparisons, but I've read a few books by comedians over the years and that's what this book reminds me of the most. Throw in a few "What is the deal with..."'s and you've got Seinlanguage.That's about all I have to say. I liked it but if I was at the same party as Klosterman, I'd probably avoid him and hang out near the food and booze. I'll guess I'll give it a 3, the traditional safety rating.

Jessica

as i just said in an email to james:i knocked out sex drugs and cocoa puffs by chuck klosterman in a few hours last night, and i gotta tell you, i fear for the world when i think of how many kids i know list this book or its author as an all-time favorite on facebook. this guy is a turd, and people are clearly confusing his wit with intellect.so yeah.frustratingly surface, misogynistic, hipster cynicism b.s. if you ask me.

Jen Padgett Bohle

Recommended for: English majors who like to play deconstruction, hipsters who used to make mix tapes,anyone who knows of Lloyd Dobbler, guys who are really into music and didn't get laid until college, the girls who love them Forgive me for what I'm about to do. I'm really not a complete curmudgeon, and I feel nefarious for the review I'm about to give, mostly because everyone I know likes this book, but I simply can't promote all of these essays as refreshingly creative and brilliantly written pop culture analyses. (disregard this review with respect to Tracks [the essays are tracks for the metaphorical mix CD Klosterman has created] 2, 5 , 12, and 15) Klosterman is that witty and perspicacious guy in the Misfits Tee we all know from college who began dating around his sophomore year when women realized he was smart and amusing (and Klosterman himself attributes this to the Woody Allen/MiaFarroworDianeKeaton paradigm). But in Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs he seems as if he still has to prove how hip, smart, and deserving of ladies (and attention)he really is. There's a telling point when Klosterman is discussing country and alt country music (see "Toby Over Moby") and chastises hipsters for their elitism and fickleness, but simultaneously, Klosterman name drops obscure little bands, and makes sure to let readers know what hallowed and respected hipster singers inhabit his CD shelf ( he has 17 Dylan and Phair albums, to be exact).Actually, there's no shortage of evidence about how hip, cool, and sensitive Kklosterman is. This collection is his ode to his coolness, and it feels amateurish. These are the essays we've all virtually written after rounds of drinks at the local dive bar. These are the musings of anyone who has ever had any knack or talent for deconstruction (or charming, somewhat intellectual bullshit) after overdosing on Mountain Dew and the equally empty calories of Teen dream television (Klosterman chooses Saved By The Bell and MTV'S first Real World here). Klosterman's writing is problematic because many of these essays feel like they were written for a junior composition class (although I have to admit, Klosterman would certainly be a favored student). I can practically feel the teacher's notes on the pages: "Chuck, need to end with a WOW! statement" --- all the ending sentences are the mass produced Eng 300 variety: concise, annoyingly clever, and they sort of pertain to something mentioned in the essay. The good news: These essays will resonate with you, overeducated hipster reader. If you grew up in the 80s and early 90s, then you will get these, and they will likely be the encapsulation of everything you and your drunkard Chuck Taylor wearing, irony branded, PBR drinking buddies discussed on the long walk home from the party. I admit, Chuck Klosterman amused me, but mostly because he wrote down all the thoughts my friends and I used to discuss.

Kurt

I have recently had a hunger for the genre of "smart people writing about stupid things," and this book is my new favorite example. While Klosterman may not deserve to be considered a subversive genius, he is a very smart person writing very good analysis of very shallow things, and I love it. This collection of essays includes a comparison of Pamela Anderson and Marilyn Monroe to examine the way our cultural attitudes toward sex have changed (nothing groundbreaking, but the essay is earnest and respectful, even as it touches on the pornographic), a reflection on the way The Real World has altered how young people see their real-life social groupings, a story of the author's time coaching Little League that made me laugh out loud to the point where I had to stop reading for a while, and more. There is a traditionally journalistic portrait of a Guns 'N Roses cover band, which delves into what the cover band phenomenon says about music and our society, and one of the only respectable analyses of Saved By The Bell that I have ever read (it doesn't pretend that the show was good, or entertaining, or coherent - it just looks at the various pieces and how they fit together in a way that considered what fans wanted/needed). There is also a haunting little essay about the cultural impact of serial killers, filled with impressive interviews and some soul-baring on the part of Klosterman. I even liked the essays about sports, although my eyes glazed over while I skimmed through the sections with way too much detail about a topic I loathe.Certainly, this collection is not going to change your life. For all of its sophistication and energy, it's still a bunch of thoughts about shallow subjects. But they're terrific thoughts, and you should read them. (I have already bought copies of two more collections of Klosterman's essays because I loved these so much.)

Matt

this is exactly the kind of book so-called hipsters cling to, namedrop, and reference when they gather together dressed in their bright eyes t-shirts, black-rimmed glasses, jeans, and chuck taylors. you know the type, the 'i'm-cooler-than-you-are-because-my-tastes-are-better-than-yours.' you know who i'm talking about? good. continue.what initially drove me to read this book was his opening 'essay' in which chuck klosterman refers to coldplay as a facsimile of travis who was a facsimile of early-period radiohead or some other band i don't remember. i loathe coldplay, so that made me laugh. i was hoping for more of the same. boy was i in for some disappointment.instead of some clever or comedic insight, we get pretty some pretty vapid 'analysis' of 'saved by the bell,' pornography, and well, i really don't remember what else (that's the impact this book had on me). klosterman just tries way too hard to extrapolate meaning and signficance out of the banal of subjects. sorry, chuck, but 'saved by the bell' was just a geeky, silly tv show for kids, nothing else. don't read too much into it. really. don't. sure, i get it that hipster-wannabees like to discuss the cultural relevance of pop-culture phenonmenons, but why [aside from stroking the old ego]? does it really matter? i guess it does for some people, but i'll never understand why. i have to admit that sometimes klosterman does write the occassional zinger [but he's not nearly as funny as he thinks he is]; but most of the time he comes off sounding like a poor man's douglas coupland, he who wrote the two definitive 'gen-x' novels, 'generation-x,' and 'microserfs.' one page of either of coupland's books shames any of klosterman's 'essays.' also, i don't know who served as his editor, but most of the essays, while occassionally interesting, where shambolic, rambling, poorly organized, and frustratingly unrealized. klosterman would be well-served to get himself an editor capable of keeping him on track and keeping him focused. in the end this book a sometimes pleasant diversion from the rigors of everyday life, but it is little else. it's not hip, it's not clever. instead, justlike it's titular reference point, 'sex, drugs, and cocoapuffs,' is a sugar-coated book with little substance or nutritional value.

Alegria

I know I'm supposed to be won over by Chuck Klosterman's supposedly keen and cutting insight into pop culture and therefore the modern human experience, but I really just felt like I was at a really dull party and cornered by some annoyingly pseudo-intellectual guy whose sole enjoyment is to contradict and mock anything anyone says just to hear himself talk.

Tess

This book was a total waste of time. As a huge fan of philosophy, my breaking point was only by page 20. I thought, this whole book can't be THAT bad...so I flipped around and read snippets from later chapters to make sure I wasn't selling it short. But alas, no, this was truly a masterpiece of crap. Its just some hipster-type asshole, who thinks he's got it all figured out, and says things like, "If you define your personality as 'creative,' it only means you understand what is PERCEIVED to be creative to the world at large, so you're really just following a rote creative template. Thats the OPPOSITE of creativity." (Chuck Klosterman, pg 14) This is just one of many examples that really pissed me off to the point where I wanted to stop reading...Klosterman just sounds like an over-educated, arrogant Greenwich Villager, with a mind closed so tight he's lacking enough oxygen to think straight. But that's just my opinion. Im just sayin...

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