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

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.

Kemper

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.

Barney Trotwell

I'd be lying if I said this book did not absorb me. I devoured it in a few days, which I rarely do. It's an easy read, even though I wasn't familiar with all the popular culture items referenced inside. And let's face it, Chuck is eloquent, smart, kinda funny, and his observations are usually interesting. Which is not to say they are not total bullshit. I mean, all this would be nice to listen to over dinner, if your conversational partner didn't have any illusions about its severity and weight. But to actually take it as social commentary, would be like trying to balance an elephant on top of a house of cards. The guy is throwing around dubious or outright false premises like a drunkard would swing a two handed sword -- causing damage without really understanding what he's doing, and destroying trees in the process. I am not sure the author doesn't know this, either. I am not even sure that he doesn't assume all readers would understand it right away. This just that kind of book. Read it to copy some phrases to make conversation with, and to pass the time when in an airport.

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.

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.

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...

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.)

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.

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.

Louisa

Chuck Klosterman is overrated. His essays were vapid, dull, wankery, lacking in humour and substance. Another book that would be good to read if I have trouble sleeping.

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.

Brynn

"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 loneliness...like 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."

lauren

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.

Jay

I had a very strong reaction to Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. I enjoyed a handful of the chapters, especially the dissections of Lloyd Dobler, Saved By The Bell, the GnR Cover Band, and the Experimental Music Project. But when a chapter didn't coincide with my interests (e.g. sports, Dixie Chicks, Pamela Anderson), I found Klosterman's arguments transparent, a caveat that he fully acknowledges in an essay with a "formula for being relentlessly dynamic." Subject matter aside, Klosterman heavily relies on digressions and pop culture name dropping:"What in the name of Andrew W.K. is going on?"These references angered me because they serve no purpose to the topic at hand and they unnecessarily date the material. He basically throws pop culture spaghetti against the wall and sees what sticks.Also frustrating was Klosterman's excessive ability to turn his opinion into what he considers a universal fact:"It's become cool to like Star Wars, which actually means it's totally become uncool to like Star Wars."A ten year old could have written that poorly thought-out sentence, but aside from that, Klosterman sees no gray areas. He thinks that there are two kinds of people in the world for whatever topic is at hand. It makes for a close-minded and often annoying read, even when we see eye to eye.

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.

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