Daniel's Reviews > Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman
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Mar 18, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: 2008
Read in March, 2008

When I was in college, one of my professors assigned a book that used bridge, a card game he apparently loved, to illustrate the principles of sociology. I found the book, which he had written, to be a waste of time and was annoyed that he made us buy and read it. At the end of the semester, we had to write a paper that applied sociological theories to something in American culture we were interested in. So, in an attempt to mock the professor, I focused my paper on several children's cartoons including, if I remember correctly, "The Smurfs" and "Scooby Doo."

This is not much different than what Chuck Klosterman is doing in "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs," in which he uses television shows like "Saved By the Bell" and "The Real World" to analyze our culture. Except, as far as I can tell, he means for us to take him seriously. For much of the book, I felt like I was stuck in a dorm room listening to the ramblings of a sociology major who has devoted far too much time to analyzing crappy TV shows, breakfast-cereal commercials, and basketball-team rivalries. (Sure, he admits that the subjects of his essays aren't always deserving of his analysis, but that doesn't make them any easier to take.) This analysis is interspersed with sweeping generalizations of American society that, in fact, are more like sweeping generalizations of Klosterman's white, middle-class, Generation X friends and colleagues. His fans might stop me here and suggest I'm too old to truly appreciate his ideas. The problem is I'm actually a year younger than Klosterman.

I would have given "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs" just one star, but I allowed it an extra one partly because of Klosterman's entertaining story about Paradise City, a Guns 'n' Roses tribute band. The piece shows that Klosterman is much better when doing actual reporting instead of sitting in a room, watching Pamela Anderson's famous sex tape, and comparing the video vixen's legacy to Marilyn Monroe's. Also, I liked his analysis of Billy Joel's career. Klosterman may be the first person to accurately describe how good Joel was in his prime without ever actually being, unlike most rock stars at their best, cool.
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Jeffrey Schmieder I loved the book because it brought me back to my college years staying up way too late drinking and solving the problems of the world. Nostalgia.


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