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


If you must, you may call it jealousy, but there is no getting around the fact that if someone had read my essays during college, and then paid me to keep writing those essays, then I could (would) have been Chuck Klosterman. [1] But seriously: I feel like I could have written all of these essays (possibly better) if only someone had come along and said: Hey, you've got the right kind of sarcastic wit and you know how to stitch together a bunch of quasi-esoteric references... can you bang together a couple of 5,000 word essays on pop culture subjects? Only problem is that I'd probably have peaked at like 25. [2]Anyway: this is Chuck Klosterman. Basically, he is the older brother that I never had--the older brother of whom I am extremely jealous. He gets all the girls. (Even if he can't keep them.) He smokes all the best weed. (Even if he can't handle it.) He goes to all the best concerts. (Even if he doesn't enjoy them.) He's seen every episode of every show, went to every game of every team, heard every record by every band, read every book by every author, taken every class by every prof, and remembered every detail about all of them. [3] Thus is he the smartest kid in the room--even if he still goes around claiming to be an idiot. And despite all that, I can see right through all of his bullshit shenanigans.And trust me: there are some bullshit shenanigans going on here.Klosterman is lazy. Seriously: how can you (in good conscience) open an essay ("Every Dog Must Have His Every Day, Every Drunk Must Have His Drink") with a not-at-all-oblique reference to September 11th and then not tie that back in to the overall theme? When we get to the end of "Every Dog Must...", all he got was Billy Joel-Billy Joel-Billy Joel and the eternal struggle between Cool and Great. But he opens with "nineteen unsmiling people from the Middle East" and then he just leaves it hanging there, never to crash back into the rest of the narrative. Lazy, sloppy work. [4]But for as lazy as Klosterman is, he's sharp. He "gets it". And how do I know that he "gets it"? Because he is harping on "that celebrity thing"--the same way that William Gibson talks about celebrity in Idoru ; the same way that Bruce Sterling talks about celebrity in Holy Fire ; and (to a lesser extend) the way that Neal Stephenson talks about celebrity (and/or pop culture's collision with itself?) in Snow Crash . Yes; Chuck understands it. The bizarre world of the successful (?) cover band in "Appetite for Replication". The meta-conflicts of the simulated life of simulated people in the simulated world of "The Sims" in "Billy Sim". The exegesis of Pamela Anderson-vs-Marilyn Monroe-as-the-best possible-sex symbol-for-her-time in "Ten Seconds to Love". The circular conundrum imposed by MTV's "The Real World" and the full explication of that subject in "What Happens When People Stop Being Polite". And that's all in the first 85 pages. Yes indeed; he may be lazy and sloppy, but this is Chuck Klosterman at his best. [5]Anyway: Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: just as easy to love as it is to hate.---[1] Only seven years later?[2] So... replace "jealousy" with "schadenfreude"?[3] Despite smoking all the best weed.[4] And/but that's OK? because he writes like some sort of proto-blogger? or like a college student at a fancy liberal arts school that never bothered to graduate? And/but maybe that's a whole big essay in and of itself? About the proto-blogger style? about the liberal artsy interest? about the elevation of pop culture and equalizing it with all of your fancy-pants schooling subject matter?[5] ALSO: Chuck is really at his best when he's writing about sports. Because it's funny when nerds write about sports.


"There are two ways to look at life. The first view is that nothing stays the same and that nothing is inherently connected, and that the only driving force in anyone's life is entropy. The second is that everything pretty much stays the same (more or less) and that everything is completely connected, even if we don't realize it.""In and of itself, nothing really matters. What matters is that nothing is ever 'in and of itself'"."There's not a lot to say during breakfast. I mean, you just woke up, you know? Nothing has happened. If neither person had an especially weird dream and nobody burned the toast, breakfast is just the time for chewing Cocoa Puffs and/or wishing you were still asleep. But we've been convinced not to think like that.""If you define your personality as creative, it only means you understand what is perceivedto be creative by the world at large, so you're really just following a rote creative template. That's the opposite of creativity. Everybody is wrong about everything, just about all the time.""If cool was a color, it would be black - and Billy Joel would be sort of burnt orange.""If given the choice between hearing a great band and seeing a cool band, I'll take the latter every time; this is why the Eagles suck.""Every one of Joel's important songs - including the happy ones - are ultimately about the way it feels when you're being hugged by someone and it somehow makes you sadder.""I hate that those letters still exist. But I don't hate them because what I said was false; I hate them because what I said was completely true. My convictions could not have been stronger when I wrote those words, and - for whatever reason - they still faded into nothingness.""The truth is that most children don't love soccer; they simply hate the alternatives more.""An inordinate number of cereal commercials are based on the premise that a given cereal is so delicious that a fictional creature would want to steal it.""Teenagers dream they want to be cool, but mostly they just want to avoid being uncool.""We pursue that which retreats from us, and coolness is always a bear market. Coolness is always what others seem to have naturally - an unspecific, delicious, chocolately paradigm we must pilfer through subterfuge.""Being cool is mostly ridiculous, and so is sugared cereal. That's why we like it.""Math is the antireligion, because it splinters the gravity of life's only imperative equation: Either something is true, or it isn't. Do or do not; there is no try.""Most people consider forgetting stuff to be a normal part of living. However, I see it as a huge problem; in a way, there's nothing I fear more. The strength of your memory dictates the size of your reality. And since objective reality is fixed, all we can do is try to experience - to consume - as much of that fixed reality as possible. This can be done only by living in the moment (which I never do) or by exhaustively filing away former moments for later recall (which I do all the time)...Taoists constantly tell me to embrace the present, but I only live in the past and the future; my existence is solely devoted to a) thinking about what will happen next and b) thinking back to what's happened before. The present seems useless, because it has no extension beyond my senses.""Lots of people (in fact, most people) do not dream about morphing their current life into something dramatic and cool and metaphoric. Most people see their life as a job they have to finish; if anything, they want their life to be less complicated than it already is."

Jonathan Slusar

Oh goodness, Mr. Klosterman.Right. So let's say I read this 5 years ago (this actually isn't a hypothetical, as I had read this book years ago); I really loved it, as I was just beginning to get swept up in the subject matter of the book (pop culture and making fun of how absurd it is, cool indie bands, general cynicism, stuff like that) and felt that by allowing myself to be emerged in the water of the book that I would ultimately absorb every bit of knowledge and (sort of) wit and it would reflect in my personality. How could I not want to be a little bit like Chuck? He's goofy, knows a great amount of stuff on bands that are neat, and just seems a little disgruntled with how people react to certain music (I fondly recall the opening chapter or foreward being about him ranting about Coldplay or something).I picked up Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs recently enough and wow. It doesn't age well, in a similar way that picking up Catcher in the Rye some years after reading it in High School doesn't settle well with me. It's not even the way that Klosterman writes. He's clever, kind of funny, and actually can form some pretty well structured articles. The problem is his attitude. It's something that at a certain age I had grown out of, but I guess he didn't. Maybe it's not even something you do grow out of. But it just doesn't resonate with me and outside of a few specific chapters (The Sims one is fantastic), I just kind of groaned at a lot of the stuff he said.There's a time and a place for Klosterman, and I guess it's just not right now for me. Maybe the ship has sailed and is long at sea with a Styx cover band performing on the cruise. That would be nice. It's what he would've wanted.


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.


I've been reading a lot of books of essays lately -- Emily Gould, Sloane Crosley, Chuck Klosterman, David Foster Wallace. Except for Wallace, they just make me want to punch people. Grammatical errors aside -- and there are so many in this book that I called a friend in publishing from the airport in which I was reading it and asked "Who the hell proofreads these things?" -- it's vaguely profane, vaguely profound nothingness, sort of fortune-cookie David Foster Wallace. And I realized: David Foster Wallace is trying to explain things, things so complicated and heart locked that there's almost no way to say them. That's why the endless footnotes, the runaround sentences. It's not that he doesn't want to be clear, it's that it's difficult to be clear and he's trying to explain the best way he knows how. The rest of these guys are just trying to be clever and quotable. I think I would have enjoyed this a lot more if I hadn't been reading "Consider the Lobster" just before it. Real honesty in essays is rare, and once you get used to it everything else looks tarnished.The other thing is this: Klosterman works the same side of the street as Nick Hornby, but -- and this is astounding, since he's writing essays and not fictional characters, no matter how obviously they're based on himself -- he doesn't have the same gift of voice that Hornby does. Actually, it's not astounding at all: the fact that he's not entirely putting himself out there, that he's got a protective veneer of "fiction" makes it easier for Hornby to be honest, I think. Klosterman is airing himself to the world, and even though he pulls no punches on being sort of an unattractive jerky guy in the way you suspect many people are jerks underneath, his insights into himself seem lazily constructed. Is there seriously no way to save a review you're halfway finished with? There must be.


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.)


Klosterman's essays make funny and relevant points about pop culture and an aging Gen Xer's reflections on how it impacts our lives. The unique thing is that even though he writes about a lot of things that have become cliches to comment on (Star Wars, The Real World, relationships, etc.), he avoids coming across as yet another version of Kevin Smith by noting that they are cliches, and humorously explores why a segment of America became obsessed with them in the first place.


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 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...


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.


No woman will ever satisfy me. I know that now, and I would never try to deny it. But this is actually okay, because I will never satisfy a woman, either. Should I be writing such thoughts? Perhaps not. Perhaps it's a bad idea. I can definitely foresee a scenario where that first paragraph could come back to haunt me, especially if I somehow became marginally famous. If I become marginally famous, I will undoubtedly be interviewed by someone in the media, and the interviewer will inevitably ask, "Fifteen years ago, you wrote that no woman could ever satisfy you. Now that you've been married for almost five years, are those words still true?" And I will have to say, Oh, God no. Those were the words of an entirely different person -- a person whom I can't even relate to anymore. Honestly, I can't image an existence without _____. She satisfies me in ways that I never even considered. She saved my life, really. Now, I will be lying. I won't really feel that way. But I'll certainly say those words, and I'll deliver them with the utmost sincerity, even though those sentiments will not be there. So then the interviewer will undoubtedly quote lines from this particular paragraph, thereby reminding me that I swore I would publicly deny my true feelings, and I'll chuckle and say, "Come on, Mr. Rose. That was a literary device. You know I never really believed that." But here's the thing: I do believe that. It's the truth now, and it will be in the future. And while I'm not exactly happy about that truth, it doesn't make me sad, either. I know it's not my fault. It's no one's fault, really. Or maybe it's everyone's fault. It should be everyone's fault, because it's everyone's problem. Well, okay...not everyone . Not boring people, and not the profoundly retarded. But whenever I meet dynamic, nonretarded Americans, I notice that they all seem to share a single unifying characteristic: the inability to experience the kind of mind-blowing, transcendent romantic relationship they perceive to be a normal part of living. And someone needs to take the fall for this. So instead of blaming no one for this (which is kind of cowardly) or blaming everyone (which is kind of meaningless), I'm going to blame John Cusack. ...I remember taking a course in college called "Communication and Society," and my professor was obsessed by the belief that fairy tales like "Hansel and Gretel" and "Little Red Riding Hood" were evil. She said they were part of a latent social code that hoped to suppress women and minorities. At the time, I was mildly outraged that my tuition money was supporting this kind of crap; years later, I have come to recall those pseudo-savvy lectures as what I loved about college. But I still think they were probably wasteful, and here's why: Even if those theories are true, they're barely significant. "The Three Little Pigs" is not the story that is fucking people up. Stories like Say Anything are fucking people up. We don't need to worry about people unconsciously "absorbing" archaic secret messages when they're six years old; we need to worry about all the entertaining messages people are consciously accepting when they're twenty-six. They're the ones that get us, because they're the ones we try to turn into life. I mean, Christ: I wish I could believe that bozo in Coldplay when he tells me that stars are yellow. I miss that girl. I wish I was Lloyd Dobler. I don't want anybody to step on a piece of broken glass. I want fake love. But that's all I want, and that's why I can't have it. wow. i read this in a blog and immediately went out and bought the book. i loved it all as much as i loved this.

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.


Klosterman was recommended to me by a friend, and while I'll admit he has some funny bits, he really is that guy at the party who is exceedingly nerdy (in a hipster sort of way) and who thinks he's clearly better than everyone else. And no one -- no one -- should devote the amount of time and attention to pop culture that he does. And this is coming from a girl who gets a regular dose of Perez Hilton every week. I'm his target audience, and yet he still turned me off. He critiques pop culture at such a level of extreme minutia that only four people on the planet know what he's talking about. Furthermore, he makes a point of saying that certain shows, bands, etc. appeal only to people who were born between certain years (he was born in 1972, and thinks most of today's pop culture only applies to those born between 1970 and 1975). For example, he writes that only people born between the aforementioned years ever watched "Saved By the Bell," which aired when he was in college. I won't get into the fact that Klosterman was watching episodes of SBTB in COLLEGE (mind you, this was a show on Saturday mornings initially, geared towards the 10-15 year-old crowd). In fact, I think SBTB was watched by many more viewers in younger generations than his, but it serves to illustrate the point that Klosterman seems to feel that everything in pop culture only applies to his narrow generational window.He writes as if he thinks he so much better than all of these people he makes fun of, and yet he spends his career hyper-evaluating pop culture. Pot, Kettle, anyone?


What a hack. Do you really need 243 pages to deconstruct the "Real World" and Pamela Anderson? Klosterman is the pretentious "indie" guy at the party who is so insecure all he can talk about are his Spin articles that he wrote in 1989. If I met him on the street; I would punch him.

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.


a nice little collection of essays covering everything from the Sims, why the Lakers / Celtics conflict can apply to everything in life, the Real World, and Saved by the Bell. Chuck has a pretty sharp little wit; i definitely snickered through most of the book (which made for some awkward looks on the metro). i think my only critique would be the novelty of his writing style started to wear off by the end of the book, but overall, a good read. definitely a fan of the section on why John Cusack's acting career is bad for love, and Chuck's 23 hypothetical questions.

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