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

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman
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Dec 08, 08

bookshelves: read-in-2008, reviewed
Recommended to dara by: Kenny, who would argue for a higher rating... without success.
Recommended for: someone who doesn't take pop culture too seriously
Read in December, 2008, read count: 1 (and a half?)

Skimming the reviews, I must say I agree with someone's comment that Klosterman is more of a blogger than a writer (at least if judged by this effort), but for a collection of essays on pop culture, that doesn't seem to be a very crucial distinction. With Internet culture overflowing into the day-to-day life of most Americans, it shouldn't come as a shock to find it reflected in contemporary writing; besides, sometimes a decent blogger is preferable to a boring writer. That isn't to say that I wasn't at times bored with this book--please note that I've read it one and a half times because I abandoned it at first (after 60 pages) and didn't feel compelled to give it a second chance until a year later. Not all of these essays are likely to appeal to every person. My first attempt was thwarted by an essay in which Klosterman describes interviewing a Guns-N-Roses tribute band. The second time around I was very tempted to skim, rather than read, this as well as a couple of sports-oriented essays, but I resisted and persevered (although probably to no benefit).

Klosterman manages to amuse at times, given that A) you are aware of at least most of the pop culture references cited and B) you realize that, according to Klosterman's logic at least, there is a 50/50 chance that you won't agree with his opinions. I found myself not only disagreeing with some of his opinions, but feeling a slight superiority at times (only to the extent that I would sometimes realize I was unintentionally smirking). Still, I didn't allow (sometimes extreme) differences of opinion to elicit any emotion that might completely diminish the humor behind many of his observations. Music especially is a touchy subject for people, but whenever I was frustrated with Klosterman, I simply reminded myself that he is a writer for Spin--a magazine which I don't subscribe to [at all or:] for its music reviews.

The book starts off strong with "This Is Emo," an essay in which Klosterman blames John Cusack--or the character Lloyd Dobler to be more accurate--for his and everyone else's failed relationships. As someone who would rank Cusack fairly high up on my list of GIWB (Guys I Would Blow), I was amused--and what is more, the argument was not without merit. This is followed by an essay on The Sims, which was somewhat thoughtful, but less meaningful to me considering my own experience with The Sims was short-lived because I found the game boring. Next comes an essay on The Real World, which is even less relevant to my interests. I don't think I've watched a single episode in its entirety. That isn't to say that the essay isn't coherent without significant prior knowledge, but I mention it to illustrate the point that such varied, rather specific subjects of nostalgia are likely to be met with varying degrees of enthusiasm, depending upon the reader's prior knowledge and interest.

Some of the other topics include: Pamela Anderson (as compared to Marilyn Monroe), Left Behind (book series and film adaptation), Internet porn, Star Wars, Saved By the Bell, journalism, Memento, Vanilla Sky, serial killers, The Dixie Chicks, the 1980s rivalry between the Celtics and the Lakers.... I was born in 1986, so even if I cared about sports (and I don't), that last one wouldn't mean anything to me. Obviously there's a high chance certain subjects are already dated or will become so shortly.

Overall conclusion: probably overrated, yet a decent means of distraction (especially when you borrow a copy and bypass the financial investment of purchasing). Two might be a bit harsh of a rating, but enough people praise Klosterman's writing that I feel it kind of evens out.
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Quotes dara Liked

Chuck Klosterman
“Every one of Joel's important songs--including the happy ones--are ultimately about loneliness. And it's not 'clever lonely' (like Morrissey) or 'interesting lonely' (like Radiohead); it's 'lonely lonely,' like the way it feels when you're being hugged by someone and it somehow makes you sadder.”
Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

Chuck Klosterman
“In and of itself, nothing really matters. What matters is that nothing is ever in and of itself.”
Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

Chuck Klosterman
“Everybody is wrong about everything, just about all the time.”
Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

Chuck Klosterman
“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.”
Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

Chuck Klosterman
“I once loved a girl who almost loved me, but not as much as she loved John Cusack.”
Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

Chuck Klosterman
“Pundits are always blaming TV for making people stupid, movies for desensitizing the world to violence, and rock music for making kids take drugs and kill themselves. These things should be the least of our worries. The main problem with mass media is that it makes it impossible to fall in love with any acumen of normalcy. There is no 'normal,' because everybody is being twisted by the same sources simultaneously. ”
Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

Chuck Klosterman
“The Sims is an escapist vehicle for people who want to escape to where they already are, which is why I thought this game was made precisely for me.”
Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto
tags: humor

Chuck Klosterman
“Being interesting has been replaced by being identifiable.”
Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

Chuck Klosterman
“Outcasts may grow up to be novelists and filmmakers and computer tycoons, but they will never be the athletic ruling class.”
Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

Chuck Klosterman
“Do you know people who insist they like 'all kinds of music'? That actually means they like no kinds of music.”
Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

Chuck Klosterman
“When exactly did every housewife in America become a whore?”
Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

Chuck Klosterman
“Though I obviously have no proof of this, the one aspect of life that seems clear to me is that good people do whatever they believe is the right thing to do. Being virtuous is hard, not easy. The idea of doing good things simply because you're good seems like a zero-sum game; I'm not even sure those actions would still qualify as 'good,' since they'd merely be a function of normal behavior. Regardless of what kind of god you believe in--a loving god, a vengeful god, a capricious god, a snooty beret-wearing French god, or whatever--one has to assume that you can't be penalized for doing the things you believe to be truly righteous and just. Certainly, this creates some pretty glaring problems: Hitler may have thought he was serving God. Stalin may have thought he was serving God (or something vaguely similar). I'm certain Osama bin Laden was positive he was serving God. It's not hard to fathom that all of those maniacs were certain that what they were doing was right. Meanwhile, I constantly do things that I know are wrong; they're not on the same scale as incinerating Jews or blowing up skyscrapers, but my motivations might be worse. I have looked directly into the eyes of a woman I loved and told her lies for no reason, except that those lies would allow me to continue having sex with another woman I cared about less. This act did not kill 20 million Russian peasants, but it might be more 'diabolical' in a literal sense. If I died and found out I was going to hell and Stalin was in heaven, I would note the irony, but I couldn't complain. I don't make the fucking rules.”
Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

Chuck Klosterman
“Everyone knows that the Internet is changing our lives, mostly because someone in the media has uttered that exact phrase every single day since 1993. However, it certainly appears that the main thing the Internet has accomplished is the normalization of amateur pornography. There is no justification for the amount of naked people on the World Wide Web, many of whom are clearly (clearly!) doing so for non-monetary reasons. Where were these people fifteen years ago? Were there really millions of women in 1986 turning to their husbands and saying, 'You know, I would love to have total strangers masturbate to images of me deep-throating a titanium dildo, but there's simply no medium for that kind of entertainment. I guess we'll just have to sit here and watch Falcon Crest again.”
Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

Chuck Klosterman
“Contrary to what you may have heard from Henry Rollins or/and Ian MacKaye and/or anyone else who joined a band after working in an ice cream shop, you can't really learn much about a person based on what kind of music they happen to like. As a personality test, it doesn't work even half the time. However, there is at least one thing you can learn: The most wretched people in the word are those who tell you they like every kind of music 'except country.' People who say that are boorish and pretentious at the same time.”
Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto


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12/06/2008 page 56
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