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Showing 1-7 of 7 reviews(3 star). See all 39 reviews
on January 27, 2004
"When I get up in the morning nothing seems to make sense. At night everything has meaning and seems to be connected. That's why I hate to go to sleep." That's how Chuck Klosterman introduces his series of essays about popular culture, "Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs." He has a real knack of teasing profound meanings out of the seeming trash of pop culture. And unlike a lot of other critics who start out writing about rock, he's not trying to prove he's in the Red Guards. He's a philosophical and temperamental moderate. In fact, his analysis of the 1980's rivalry between the Boston Celtics and the L.A. Lakers says that it was a ideological competition between right-wing individualism (Celtics) and corporate liberalism (Lakers); and he sheepishly confesses he's a Celtics man.
He also writes about John Cusack's irresistable attraction for the women of his generation (and how we love the image of romance, not the real thing.) He proclaims Billy Joel's greatness in spite of Joel's lack of "coolness." He trashes soccer in a very satisfying way for those of us who hate it. He analyzes the strange mythic appeal of "Saved By The Bell"; it's the stupid popular kid's dream of what life should be like. He theorizes that the doom and gloom of "The Empire Strikes Back" could have influenced the famous pessimism of the entire so-called Generation X. On these many subjects Klosterman isn't quite as funny as Kevin Smith or Quentin Tarantino, but he's more articulate. There's much fun to be had in this book.
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on November 19, 2003
Glad this was a collection of essays, rather than a novel. I don't think I would have been able to make it through a novel of this type of writing. Also made it easy to read while on the pot.
The essays start out with brilliance (especially the first two, about romance and The Sims, respectively), but my interest in them fizzled out. There are a few bright points here and there in the remaining essays (the essay about serial killers and our fascination with them is dead on). There is no doubt Klosterman is an adept writer, can pinpoint emotions, and locate intermittently with a witty finger the pulse of certain social issues (like what the hell tribute bands are all about and WHY). But the tone in which he does so is sometimes reminiscent shall I put it? A smart-ass thirty-year-old who thinks he is very clever with his observations, and justifies it by saying he is a Gen X'er and entitled to his lofty superiority. In other words, if you read Klosterman, you're just the type of person he'd look down on.
In trying to deconstruct pop culture, Klosterman sometimes comes across as believing himself an expert about everything American. He also has no qualms about insulting outright the very audience reading his book. Even though he jokes in the beginning that he writes these things late at night in a state of near-delirium, you still get the impression he thinks he is, as he might put it, the "uber-mensch".
Some of the essays are so specialized that I had absolutely no interest in reading them, and skipped right over them as I realized the entire essay was absorbed in deconstructing, say, basketball heroes. So I can't really say I enjoyed the entire book - some of it was unintelligible to me; hence, 3 stars (IMHO).
True, Klosterman has been saturated with pop culture through his research and work with major magazines, but most of his off-the-cuff opinions are just that -- opinions and rantings rather than hard facts supported by any type of references, so keep in mind that you're reading personal essays, rather than research articles.
Perhaps I was tainted, since I had just finished reading half of Michael Moore's "Stupid White Men," and the entire of Jon Krakauer's "Under the Banner of Heaven," so one more book illustrating the hopeless stupidity of the human race may have caused me unfair irritation.
Strong essays for the most part, well written, but I lost interest and read them very patchily throughout the last half of the book because the tone grated on my nerves.
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on May 24, 2004
Chuck Klosterman has obviously read plenty of Jay McInerney and Bret Easton Ellis. He seems to be trying to write the next BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY. I think he tries too hard, though. He's not writing his voice, he's writing an attempt to emulate the voice of other writers. He does a good job and the stories are interesting, but there is the soul of the writer missing from the book that you get when it's a writer's authentic voice and not an imitation. Even the best Elvis Impersonator is still and impersonator. If you want to read the next BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY, buy MY FRACTURED LIFE because it has that authentic voice. I'm not saying don't buy SEX, DRUGS, AND COCO PUFFS, just know you're going to see a tribute show.
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on September 26, 2003
...but I am not sure there was a whole book's worth of material or thought. I certainly enjoyed pieces of the book and would recommend it to anyone in the age range of 40-20 as way to reflect back but I am not so sure that this was not better suited for a series of magazine essays rather than a whole book with a full sticker price!
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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.
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on July 10, 2004
"Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs" is an essay collection that draws comparisons between popular culture and important social and interpersonal issues. It also happens to be extremely witty at times. Chuck Klosterman is a writer for Spin magazine, so he clearly knows pop culture and can write quality essays. The best of his work here truly encapsulates life. Who cannot relate to this quote? - "Every relationship is fundamentally a power struggle, and the individual in power is whoever likes the other person less." That profundity, by the way, is from an essay that discusses the merits of "When Harry Met Sally"; another section proffers the genius of Billy Joel. Yes, Klosterman is a bit of a hipster geek.
Pop culture references are sprinkled throughout the book, but sometimes it stretches a bit too much for the sake of a clever analogy. In the forward, Klosterman assserts that, at times, he feels as though "everything is completely connected." Unfortunately, he is not adept enough to make all of his essays into a cohesive whole (as other reviewers have noted). Ultimately, the book feels like a loose collection of unrelated but very funny skits. Although that debit doesn't sink the book, it does lessen its impact. In addition, Klosterman is sometimes too self-aware for his own good; several times, he makes reference to liking something "unironically" - such as "Saved by the Bell." His definitive goal seems to be achieving irony. While this credo certainly makes "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs" a funny read, it can become rather tedious as well. Overall, I'd recommend this book, but with reservations.
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on June 20, 2007
well this book was pretty good, but a lot of the time i had some trouble relating to it because i'm a gen y-er not x, so i didn't grow up with those cultural refrences i guess. it was pretty readable though. i'm sure if i could better relate to the material i would have given it a higher rating, but as it is... its ok.
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