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Thought provoking collection of essays on pop-culture ( 3.5 *)
on November 1, 2012
For his second book Sex, Drugs and Cocoa puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto, Klosterman put together what is basically a collection of pop-culture based short essays in which he investigates American culture for the most part, and himself. In his first effort, Fargo Rock City the book was more or less linear and felt more united whereas this is a collection of essays that still shows unity to each other because they're all about the same thing essentially, pop culture. I always thought that the way he got through was by demonstrating a point relating it to his personal life, whether he uses the band KISS or MTV's The Real World TV show it works, make us think or laugh to ourselves and comes across as effective. Most of Klosterman's books are at the core of it all, an examination of society through social and cultural events that may or may not be of some relevance to you, yet the author manages to constantly make good points and references. There's just a real honesty about Chuck that makes him sympathetic as an author and that also makes you want to like him as a person which is ultimately his strong point (and his willingness to give readers details about his personal life also helps).
Some of the content may seem a little outdated by now because of changing times but some of the topics he covers are interesting and for the most part, reflective of pop culture or society at that point and that makes it relevant in itself. Personally, I can still relate or remember most of what is the book. Not everyone has played Sims or seen The Real World, but through Chuck's prose we understand them and the way he uses those pop culture references to examine either society, himself, or whoever it is he's talking about is always from an intelligent, well thought angle. He certainly provides enough to prove his points. The Pamela Anderson/Marilyn Monroe piece was somewhat striking and the angle he has on them and their impact on culture if you will, was dead onI don't think he will make every reader gain an appreciation for Billy Joel or that I agree entirely with his essay on the man but it doesn't mean it's not enjoyable and that he doesn't have strong points, kinda like most of the book come to think of it. . Like how he compares the 1987 Lakers and Celtics to the Democrat and Republican parties respectively, it's just a fun angle he has and it's entertaining.
It's not my favorite out of Klosterman's work but it's still a readable, fun, clever effort. I think the biggest problem is that although those essays are in their own ways all funny and good reads that make you evaluate society and how people think, Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs isn't as effective as it could or should have been. Instead of linking the essays together or making them cohesive with each other so that we get the bigger picture, we have for the most part a collection of well-written essays but unrelated to each other. Unfortunately it reads as such because they're all clearly separated from each other and. But with that said, it's still an entertaining read and Chuck remains as witty and clever as ever . This time around the topics are not just music related and the author's pop-culture scope is expended which adds another dimension to Chuck's writing.
Klosterman himself in one his presentations on reading in North Dakota said that this was from an objective possibly his worst, because it was rushed and contradicted itself at times (like when he says that Pamela Anderson was the 1990's Marilyn Monroe and then proceeds to explain why but tells us that he hates when people compare the two, if that makes sense) etc. Yet it's also his best-selling work and many people enjoy it, and so do I. It's flawed but brilliant and if you're into Chuck's prose and his other books you'll love this one as well. If you're new to Chuck's work or something about pop-culture, it's still a good book but perhaps not the one I would start with. As a concept of a collection of cultural essays, Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs works rather well and some of the points explained through pop-culture are undeniably brilliant or at least engage the reader. As I said it's probably not as effective as some of his other work (at least to me) because although the content is good and interesting, the content is similar but not connected so it really feels as if you're reading a collection of essays. Pop culture junkies will find a lot to like here; I like it very much myself and it's a good read. Much of the ideas Klosterman proposes are still engraved in my head and have made for interesting conversation topics and debates. Not his finest, although some would disagree with me but I'd say it's worth it. 3 ' stars.