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Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

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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.

272 pages, Paperback

First published July 20, 2003

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About the author

Chuck Klosterman

130 books4,538 followers
Charles John "Chuck" Klosterman is an American author and essayist whose work focuses on American popular culture. He has been a columnist for Esquire and ESPN.com and wrote "The Ethicist" column for The New York Times Magazine.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,700 reviews
Profile Image for Alegria.
20 reviews6 followers
September 1, 2008
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.
Profile Image for Jennifer Padgett Bohle.
80 reviews96 followers
January 7, 2008
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.
Profile Image for Mort.
651 reviews1,313 followers
October 1, 2019
I am breaking my personal rule about not rating a book I haven't finished.

This guy, whether he is playing a character or being himself, comes across as a pretentious prick who mistakes intellect for wisdom.

DNF - threw in the towel at 30% - wish I could get my time back, even if it was just to watch paint dry...it would have been more productive.

Profile Image for lauren.
62 reviews12 followers
March 9, 2007
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.
19 reviews79 followers
January 31, 2008
this is exactly the kind of book so-called hipsters cling to, namedrop, and reference when they gather together dressed in their bright eyes t-shirts, black-rimmed glasses, jeans, and chuck taylors. you know the type, the 'i'm-cooler-than-you-are-because-my-tastes-are-better-than-yours.' you know who i'm talking about? good. continue.

what initially drove me to read this book was his opening 'essay' in which chuck klosterman refers to coldplay as a facsimile of travis who was a facsimile of early-period radiohead or some other band i don't remember. i loathe coldplay, so that made me laugh. i was hoping for more of the same. boy was i in for some disappointment.

instead of some clever or comedic insight, we get pretty some pretty vapid 'analysis' of 'saved by the bell,' pornography, and well, i really don't remember what else (that's the impact this book had on me). klosterman just tries way too hard to extrapolate meaning and signficance out of the banal of subjects. sorry, chuck, but 'saved by the bell' was just a geeky, silly tv show for kids, nothing else. don't read too much into it. really. don't. sure, i get it that hipster-wannabees like to discuss the cultural relevance of pop-culture phenonmenons, but why [aside from stroking the old ego]? does it really matter? i guess it does for some people, but i'll never understand why.

i have to admit that sometimes klosterman does write the occassional zinger [but he's not nearly as funny as he thinks he is]; but most of the time he comes off sounding like a poor man's douglas coupland, he who wrote the two definitive 'gen-x' novels, 'generation-x,' and 'microserfs.' one page of either of coupland's books shames any of klosterman's 'essays.' also, i don't know who served as his editor, but most of the essays, while occassionally interesting, where shambolic, rambling, poorly organized, and frustratingly unrealized. klosterman would be well-served to get himself an editor capable of keeping him on track and keeping him focused.

in the end this book a sometimes pleasant diversion from the rigors of everyday life, but it is little else. it's not hip, it's not clever. instead, justlike it's titular reference point, 'sex, drugs, and cocoapuffs,' is a sugar-coated book with little substance or nutritional value.
Profile Image for Antisocialite.
25 reviews30 followers
July 14, 2007
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.
Profile Image for Jessica.
10 reviews2 followers
April 6, 2008
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.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,923 reviews10.6k followers
December 27, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Writer's Relief.
529 reviews251 followers
August 11, 2016
With a disturbingly thorough knowledge of pop culture and an almost effortless ability to spin brilliant prose out of unlikely subject matter, Klosterman attacks every aspect of postmodern America: reality television, the false, unbalanced nature of When Harry Met Sally, and the media, among other seamlessly interwoven topics. He presents his essays as if they were tracks on a CD and elaborates on his experiences, which include everything between interviewing musical icons as well a brief history on the cereal industry. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs is ostensibly about entertainment, politics, music journalism, and the reality that is the world we live in. The focus ultimately lies on the realization Klosterman has, in the moments before he falls asleep: "In and of itself, nothing really matters. What matters is that nothing is ever 'in and of itself.'
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,653 reviews1,688 followers
April 4, 2015
So, here’s the deal. I was going to try and write a cogent, well-thought out review of exactly why I disliked this book so much, but it’s not working out that way. The more I sit here trying to think of things to say, the more my blood pressure skyrockets and I get more and more retroactively angry at the book.

At first, I wanted to give this book two stars, because there are a couple of essays in here that felt valid to me, one in particular about how Klosterman thinks we’re all doomed to never really love another human being because the love we’re conditioned to want from watching movies and reading books doesn’t actually exist. If taken tongue-in-cheek, this essay is pretty funny and a little insightful. But. Then I read the rest of the book, and no matter how well-constructed it was on a technical level, and no matter how many witticisms Klosterman dispenses and how many individual sentences met my approval, the overall affect is still one of rottenness. Even that first essay read in the light of the rest of the book just shows how, and forgive me for this one, how up his own ass Chuck Klosterman is. If it’s true that Chuck Klosterman will really never love a woman the way that he wants to, it’s his own goddamn fault.

There’s a moment near the beginning of the book, in one of the interludes that separate each chapter, where he states, “I never have any idea how other people feel.” That couldn’t be more obvious. Chuck Klosterman lives in a world of Chuck Klosterman’s own making. It’s like he’s stuck permanently in his own head, and every bit of pop culture analysis he performs in the book has almost no actual insight into the human condition as most people experience it, because Klosterman is incapable of that sort of thinking. I have a feeling he’s the kind of person who, if I ever met him, I’d want to punch him in the throat within about five minutes of conversation. He’s very smart, well-spoken, funny even. But he’s also an inconsiderate, selfish, and out of touch writer. He’s the kind of guy who knocks anything he doesn’t like as unworthy.

I will admit that several of these things are personal favorites of mine, so these instances probably hit harder than they would another person, but that sort of behavior is indicative of his mindset. He not only doesn’t know what people are thinking or feeling, he doesn’t seem to care. Or, at least, he cares that they think he’s smart and funny, and he writes with a tone that elevates smart and funny at the expense of kindness and generosity and, honestly, true pop culture analysis, which isn’t just analysis filtered through the mind of an intelligent narcissist, but filtered through the mind of someone who has their own opinions, but also the ability to understand the opinions of others. I disagreed with almost every opinion in this book, and some of it was so wrong I kept wondering, has Klosterman every actually met another human being? It’s not that I mind when writers are mean and skewer other people. I have read that type of writing and found it successful in the past. The difference between those writers and Klosterman is that those writers seemed to actually be writing about a world that I recognized. Klosterman is writing about a world that only exists in his own mind.

After letting my feelings about this book sit for a couple of days, I’ve realized that I’m incapable of being unbiased in my opinions about it. Even if this book did deserve an extra star for, I don’t know, whatever. I’m not giving it. I hated this book. One star.
Profile Image for Scott.
1,745 reviews123 followers
June 30, 2020
3.5 stars

"The middle film in the Star Wars trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back, remains a legitimately great picture . . . it's now completely obvious that [it] was the seminal foundation for what became 'Generation X' . . . [it] was the first movie that people born in the seventies could understand in a way that went outside of its rudimentary plot-line. That's why a movie about the good guys losing - both politically and romantically - is so integral to how people my age look at life." -- from the 'Sulking with Lisa Loeb on Ice Planet Hoth' chapter, pages 150-151

Klosterman's earlier Fargo Rock City - an excellent collection of twenty essays that focused on 80's heavy metal music - made me want to seek out more of his material. With Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs the author expands his subject matter to include all sorts of things on the pop cultural radar: reality TV shows, celebrity sex tapes, serial killers, organized religion, country music. A drawback this time is that the book can seem sort of dated - first published in 2003, a few of the topics (MTV's The Real World, The Sims computer game, digital music sounding the death knell for making mixed tapes) were then-timely, but now may resonate only with the Gen-Xer age group or just seem sort of antiquated. However, when he kept to less-limiting topics - 'Appetite for Replication,' where he shadowed a hard-drinking GNR cover band eeking out an existence on weekend gigs; or "George Will vs. Nick Hornby,' where he explained how soccer (often touted as the world's most popular sport) has never quite taken hold in America - he was in much better form. So while not everything presented was a must-read, he had some occasionally sharp moments of insight and humor.
Profile Image for Tess.
8 reviews1 follower
January 28, 2008
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...
Profile Image for Jackie "the Librarian".
870 reviews260 followers
December 28, 2009
I found myself arguing with Chuck Klosterman a lot as I read these extremely entertaining essays. He likes to take a premise and run with it, and you find yourself going along for the ride, only to realize at the end that you don't agree with what he just said. Girls love the false romanticism of Coldplay, and that ruins relationships in the real world? Hahahahaha!!! Uh, wait... really?
It was when I got to his essay on journalism that I realized his essays followed the pattern he outlines there - get a starting idea, and build your story from there, without additional quotes or research, because there's no time for it.
And sure, informing his reader is not the point, he's not trying to be Malcolm Gladwell, he's trying to be ironic and amusing, and succeeding. And why not, if you can write as humorously as Chuck does about The Real World , ironically hip t-shirts, the popularity of country music, or mix tapes and John Cusack.
This was my first Klosterman book, and I enjoyed it a lot, although it was a little strange to read this right after having just read David Foster Wallace's Consider the Lobster And Other Essays. I kept wondering where all the footnotes had gone... ;)
Profile Image for Kristen.
299 reviews12 followers
January 8, 2008
Klosterman was recommended to me by a friend, and while I'll admit he has some funny bits, he really is that guy at the party who is exceedingly nerdy (in a hipster sort of way) and who thinks he's clearly better than everyone else. And no one -- no one -- should devote the amount of time and attention to pop culture that he does. And this is coming from a girl who gets a regular dose of Perez Hilton every week. I'm his target audience, and yet he still turned me off. He critiques pop culture at such a level of extreme minutia that only four people on the planet know what he's talking about. Furthermore, he makes a point of saying that certain shows, bands, etc. appeal only to people who were born between certain years (he was born in 1972, and thinks most of today's pop culture only applies to those born between 1970 and 1975). For example, he writes that only people born between the aforementioned years ever watched "Saved By the Bell," which aired when he was in college. I won't get into the fact that Klosterman was watching episodes of SBTB in COLLEGE (mind you, this was a show on Saturday mornings initially, geared towards the 10-15 year-old crowd). In fact, I think SBTB was watched by many more viewers in younger generations than his, but it serves to illustrate the point that Klosterman seems to feel that everything in pop culture only applies to his narrow generational window.

He writes as if he thinks he so much better than all of these people he makes fun of, and yet he spends his career hyper-evaluating pop culture. Pot, Kettle, anyone?
Profile Image for Barrett.
358 reviews5 followers
August 17, 2021
a nice little collection of essays covering everything from the Sims; why the Lakers / Celtics conflict can apply to everything in life; the Real World; and Saved by the Bell. Chuck has a pretty sharp wit; i definitely snickered through most of the book (which made for some awkward looks on the metro). i think my only critique would be the novelty of his writing style started to wear off by the end of the book, but overall, a good read.

definitely a fan of the section on why John Cusack's acting career is bad for love, and Chuck's 23 hypothetical questions.
Profile Image for Daniel.
203 reviews
March 18, 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.
Profile Image for Rob.
Author 2 books377 followers
July 2, 2011
If you must, you may call it jealousy, but there is no getting around the fact that if someone had read my essays during college, and then paid me to keep writing those essays, then I could (would) have been Chuck Klosterman. [1] But seriously: I feel like I could have written all of these essays (possibly better) if only someone had come along and said: Hey, you've got the right kind of sarcastic wit and you know how to stitch together a bunch of quasi-esoteric references... can you bang together a couple of 5,000 word essays on pop culture subjects? Only problem is that I'd probably have peaked at like 25. [2]

Anyway: this is Chuck Klosterman. Basically, he is the older brother that I never had--the older brother of whom I am extremely jealous. He gets all the girls. (Even if he can't keep them.) He smokes all the best weed. (Even if he can't handle it.) He goes to all the best concerts. (Even if he doesn't enjoy them.) He's seen every episode of every show, went to every game of every team, heard every record by every band, read every book by every author, taken every class by every prof, and remembered every detail about all of them. [3] Thus is he the smartest kid in the room--even if he still goes around claiming to be an idiot. And despite all that, I can see right through all of his bullshit shenanigans.

And trust me: there are some bullshit shenanigans going on here.

Klosterman is lazy. Seriously: how can you (in good conscience) open an essay ("Every Dog Must Have His Every Day, Every Drunk Must Have His Drink") with a not-at-all-oblique reference to September 11th and then not tie that back in to the overall theme? When we get to the end of "Every Dog Must...", all he got was Billy Joel-Billy Joel-Billy Joel and the eternal struggle between Cool and Great. But he opens with "nineteen unsmiling people from the Middle East" and then he just leaves it hanging there, never to crash back into the rest of the narrative. Lazy, sloppy work. [4]

But for as lazy as Klosterman is, he's sharp. He "gets it". And how do I know that he "gets it"? Because he is harping on "that celebrity thing"--the same way that William Gibson talks about celebrity in Idoru ; the same way that Bruce Sterling talks about celebrity in Holy Fire ; and (to a lesser extend) the way that Neal Stephenson talks about celebrity (and/or pop culture's collision with itself?) in Snow Crash . Yes; Chuck understands it. The bizarre world of the successful (?) cover band in "Appetite for Replication". The meta-conflicts of the simulated life of simulated people in the simulated world of "The Sims" in "Billy Sim". The exegesis of Pamela Anderson-vs-Marilyn Monroe-as-the-best possible-sex symbol-for-her-time in "Ten Seconds to Love". The circular conundrum imposed by MTV's "The Real World" and the full explication of that subject in "What Happens When People Stop Being Polite". And that's all in the first 85 pages. Yes indeed; he may be lazy and sloppy, but this is Chuck Klosterman at his best. [5]

Anyway: Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: just as easy to love as it is to hate.


[1] Only seven years later?

[2] So... replace "jealousy" with "schadenfreude"?

[3] Despite smoking all the best weed.

[4] And/but that's OK? because he writes like some sort of proto-blogger? or like a college student at a fancy liberal arts school that never bothered to graduate? And/but maybe that's a whole big essay in and of itself? About the proto-blogger style? about the liberal artsy interest? about the elevation of pop culture and equalizing it with all of your fancy-pants schooling subject matter?

[5] ALSO: Chuck is really at his best when he's writing about sports. Because it's funny when nerds write about sports.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,688 followers
January 27, 2012
There are many, many parts of this collection I loved like they were my own children. There are a few pieces that didn't quite hold up, but hell, even Michael Jordan didn't always score 40 points per game EVERY game. Klosterman is like some alternative universe David Foster Wallace, and perhaps in time I will know the chicken/egg role that DFW played for Klosterman or Klosterman played for DFW. Both seem like guys who have spent far too much of their life reading far too much Wittgenstein while thinking of Tom Cruise, sugared cereal and the virtues of serial killers. There are certain writers who I'd really like some form of divine advanced notice on where exactly God will put them after this earth life is over, cause wherever they go, I need to reserve seats.
Profile Image for Alana.
341 reviews89 followers
July 29, 2008
It's not that I didn't like this book... Okay, that's exactly what it is. But the real issue I had with Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs is this: I've either had every conversation in this book (which I enjoyed more than these essay versions of them) or I've walked away from the conversation because it didn't interest me in the slightest. I can name at least ten people I know who could have written this book (give or take an article or two), and probably could have written it better (including the person whose choice this book is for my book club).

I didn't dislike it all, though. It was amusing in parts. It's just that I didn't find it to be wonderfully clever even though it was clearly trying very hard to be.

I could talk a lot about why I didn't like this book for little reasons, but on the whole, I think my distaste for it was rooted in the fact that I couldn't simply read it at my leisure, picking it up and putting it down to read a single article and then switch to something else, because we're reading this for book club and thus my reading has a deadline. Had I been able to just skip an article (such as the mind-numbing article on basketball) or stop reading one (like when he made repetitive references to Sigur Ros and Devo as though they were symbols of uniqueness, only to make them ordinary by constantly referencing them) so I could move on to something else or read an essay every few days, then I probably would have a kinder outlook on this book.

But here's the kicker as to why I can't simply dismiss this book. Do you know the game "Table Topics"? Or have you read the If...? books? They work on the same premise... posing a "what if" kind of question that you're supposed to then discuss with people. This may seem lame, because it implies that you can't have a natural conversation with your friends without the assistance of cards, but I found them amusing in college... and probably still would, given a particularly creative bunch of friends and a few bottles of wine. "If you could only listen to one album again for the rest of your life, what would it be?" "If you had to kill an innocent person to end world hunger, could you?" "If you were exiled from your current country, what new country would you pick as your new home?" "Which famous dead person would you most want to have a dinner conversation with?" "If you could either sleep with one famous person and never tell anyone or give the impression of a deep and loving relationship to the world but never actually sleep with them... which scenario would you pick?" (I actually think he did pose this question somewhere in the book...)

Anyway... there's one "essay" in this book that's my favorite part, not just because it's funny, but because it seems like it unwittingly captures the whole essence of the other articles -- or at least distills what good this book can accomplish. It's a small section of twenty three questions that the author would pose to a person and their answers would determine whether or not this could be his soulmate. Think of Table Topic and If...? questions (like those above) and multiply them by ten on a specific and weird scale... then you'd get the kind of questions that he asks.

For example, here's a fairly ordinary but still interesting one:
Every person you have ever slept with is invited to a banquet where you are the guest of honor. No one will be in attendance except you, the collection of your former lovers, and the catering service. After the meal, you are asked to give a fifteen-minute speech to the assembly. What do you talk about?

And here's a weird one that I quite enjoy:
Defying all expectation, a group of Scottish marine biologists capture a live Loch Ness Monster. In an almost unbelievable coincidence, a bear hunter in the Pacific Northwest shoots a Sasquatch in the thigh, thereby allowing zoologists to take the furry monster into captivity. These events happen on the same afternoon. That evening, the president announces he may have thyroid cancer and will undergo a biopsy later that week. You are the front page editor of The New York Times: What do you play as the biggest story? 

And one more for kicks:
Someone builds and optical portal that allows you to see a vision of your own life in the future (it’s essentially a crystal ball that shows a randomly selected image of what your life will be like in twenty years). You can only see into this portal for thirty seconds. When you finally peer into the crystal, you see yourself in a living room, two decades older than you are today. You are watching a Canadian football game, and you are extremely happy. You are wearing a CFL jersey. Your chair is surrounded by books and magazines that promote the Canadian Football League, and there are CFL pennants covering your walls. You are alone in the room, but you are gleefully muttering about historical moments in Canadian football history. It becomes clear that—for some unknown reason—you have become obsessed with Canadian football. And this future is static and absolute; no matter what you do, this future will happen. The optical portal is never wrong. This destiny cannot be changed. The next day, you are flipping through television channels and randomly come across a pre-season CFL game between the Toronto Argonauts and the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Knowing your inevitable future, do you now watch it? 

Okay, last one, for real:
Let us assume you met a rudimentary magician. Let us assume he can do five simple tricks--he can pull a rabbit out of his hat, he can make a coin disappear, he can turn the ace of spades into the Joker card, and two others in a similar vein. These are his only tricks and he can't learn any more; he can only do these five. HOWEVER, it turns out he's doing these five tricks with real magic. It's not an illusion; he can actually conjure the bunny out of the ether and he can move the coin through space. He's legitimately magical, but extremely limited in scope and influence. Would this person be more impressive than Albert Einstein? 

These make me think that Chuck Klosterman missed his true calling as a "Table Topics for Gen X" writer. ALL of his essays seem to serve one purpose for me: they're mildly interesting, but they make me think of more interesting things that I then actually want to discuss with other people.

Weirdest thing of all, but I actually think this might be a good book for discussion at book club... not for discussing the merits of the book, but because Klosterman's random topics (the true meaning of Saved by the Bell, the weird interest he has in people who have met serial killers and lived, etc.) will hopefully inspire other things we want to talk about in the Table Topics sense of things.

My mother tried to make the point that perhaps Klosterman was really intending to inspire conversation with these topics. At first, I found it hard to believe that Klosterman, who writes about saved by the Bell and cartoon cereal characters, is really trying to inspire discussion... but that's totally it. I might find his writing to be somewhat lacking, but he really is creating a jumping-off-point for people who might find these topics to be of interest.

So Klosterman, despite all of the complaints I have, I give you three stars.

Oh, and if you don't pick the Loch Ness Monster, then I don't understand what you could possibly be thinking.
Profile Image for Matt.
94 reviews306 followers
May 18, 2009
Confession: I have been cheating on Infinite Jest with at least two other books. This was one of them.

As a work of pop culture analysis, 'Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs' is excellent. Admittedly some of the 90210 and Real World references were lost on me as I was out most likely trying to engage in "metal dude" stuff during those shows respective heydays. Being out of the loop on these things did not decrease my enjoyment of the material, however.

Why then only three stars?

A question that i'm still struggling with in the genre of nonfiction essays is whether or not it is valid to like the factual material yet dislike the writer's voice to the extent of letting it color one's opinion of the overall work negatively? When we are being presented with something that is supposedly a nonfiction essay should we accept the writer's voice as being a window into that person's personality or is it possible that it should merely be regarded as a persona that was chosen at the time of writing?

Although this was completely unintentional, the last book that I posted a review for was another collection of nonfiction essays - DFW's 'A Supposedly Fun Thing That I Will Never Do Again.' In this book, I found Wallace's voice to be totally endearing in that "insightful genius who is somewhat bumbling but oddly self deprecating" sort of way. This made me love the material even more and wish that I could have been in Wallace's circle to submit my application for the "dim witted sidekick" position. I came away with different thoughts from Klosterman. To me he reads like that guy in the bar who is smarter than you and is going to ram that fact down your throat at every convenient moment. At times the smugness reached the overpowering point where I was not sure if I wanted to excuse myself to the scary bar bathroom and slip out the backdoor or instead lean over and headbutt him in the face.

Usually, i'm a very nonjudgemental person who has little use for self righteousness, but the article where Chuck begins by outlining (somewhat proudly) that he once tried getting together with two different girls in two different parts of the country by sending them the exact same mix CD's, love letters, etc. really aggravated me. It is safe to say that especially in our early to mid twenties most of us have treated former lovers in ways that might stir feelings of shame or regret in hindsight, but to lay those youthful indiscretions out there in a nonfiction book with nationwide distribution seems a little much. Were either of these women aware of this prior to encountering your overly gleeful recollection of it upon the publication of this book, Chuck? There may be such a thing as being too truthful.

Basically I think Klosterman is a tremendous writer with some excellent insights into pop culture and I will most likely pick up another one of his books at some point. However, if I ever hear about one of his exes bursting through the crowd at a book signing and kicking him in the ding ding, I cannot guarantee that I won't laugh.
Profile Image for Heather.
8 reviews1 follower
April 6, 2009
What a hack. Do you really need 243 pages to deconstruct the "Real World" and Pamela Anderson? Klosterman is the pretentious "indie" guy at the party who is so insecure all he can talk about are his Spin articles that he wrote in 1989. If I met him on the street; I would punch him.

Profile Image for Jenbebookish.
620 reviews162 followers
March 21, 2014
Okay so I get what Klosterman is doing here, and I can see how plenty of people actually like it. But I did.not.dig.

Actually, that is one of my nonsensical pet peeves in my books. Even when I am reading contemporary fiction which one would pretty much assume would have modern references, it just annoys me when author's mention things like Facebook, or IG, or Twitter, or even things like iPods, Jamba Juice, Beyonce, Twilight, etc. I don't exactly know why, but I just think that we can do without going so far as to cite things by name. Plenty of authors manage just fine without, I've always felt that it sorta detracts from the story, even from the very sentence itself. It's like…distracting. A substitution for a thought. So knowing that I feel this way about the smallest reference, then one can imagine how and why I would have such a poor reaction to Klosterman.

Yes, I understand that the whole modern culture thing is the whole gosh darn point of the book. To poke fun, analyze, criticize all the craziness that is modern culture. But I had to literally force myself to get thru this. It was alright for about ONE chapter, after that it got tiresome, redundant, excessive, and then just down right annoying! When I don't like the first book I read by an author who comes highly recommended and who is revered by a significant amount of people, I usually am open to giving the author another chance with another read of a different book. People don't always like every single thing an adored author writes after all. But in this case, I will absolutely not be picking up anything by him ever again. I absolutely hated every single minute of this book, and even tho Klosterman's covers can be bright and aesthetically appealing, I will not make the same mistake twice. There is no way I will ever again waste precious reading time on this man. Tho I don't regret reading this, if only to have discovered that Klosterman is not my type.

And despite all this, despite my genuine dislike of the book…I can still see how it would appeal to others. To each his own.
Profile Image for Marcus.
Author 4 books28 followers
September 2, 2008
This book started out great...nice and insightful...As it progressed, however, I've found myself removing stars from the rating.

He tries too hard to tie everything up in a neat little bow...every essay has to end with a witty little wrap-up sentence, dripping with a false poignancy, essentially wrapping it up with his original statement. It started feeling as formulaic as pop music.

It was when I got to Toby vs Moby that I found myself closing the book, and throwing it across the room. He stretches pretty far throughout his essays to make a point that isn't always there, but this one...When he had the audacity to tell me that the Dixie Chicks are more talented and relevant to music than the whole of the grunge era, when he proclaimed that pop country trumps alt country I began wondering where his head was, exactly. Then I flipped the book over and realized he's a writer for SPIN magazine, and it all made sense.

He's so quick to discount so many people's taste as some sort of a hipster fashion accessory; if you listen to Hank Senior, you're a poser, if you listen to alt country, you're a poser earning $56k+ a year with no true understanding of the working class. I'm sure I'll finish the book eventually, but I'm wary of it all, now.

I was willing to take his hatred of the Lakers with a grain of salt, but when he tries to tell me that the Dixie Chicks are the Van Halen of the next generation...Jesus.
Profile Image for Shelby.
6 reviews
January 24, 2023
From high school through my young adulthood, I was constantly recommended this provocatively titled book. In the year of our lord twenty nineteen, I am able to say I have completed this paperback and it's utter rubbish. Chuck Klosterman writes from a self-important perspective where his tastes are impeccable and women's tastes - particularly those of the teenage and partying variety - are considered pitiable and uninteresting. He has no respect for women. Just to give you a snift, here's a fun-sized sample from chapter 14 where he recalls a review he wrote about a Chicks concert: "...I clearly remember getting several angry phone calls from readers who read my review the next morning and thought I was cruel for suggesting that Chicks singer Natalie Maines has an 'oddly shaped body, fleshy cheekbones, and weird fashion sense.' It turns out Natalie Maines was pregnant. I am nothing if not underinformed" (174). He has no remorse for including his thoughts on Natalie Maines' body (especially in a review of the bands' concert, no less!!!!) and he acts like he's at no fault whatsoever. Why is he commenting on her body in the first place? Because he's a ~cool and ~credible writer, and if you don't like his honesty that you should just deal with it as he fastens his fedora to his thick skull? His pomp is foul. The ~quirky subtitle of "A Low Culture Manifesto" is a billowy and bright red flag that puts the intent of the book in plain sight. Ye be warned...
Profile Image for Jaclyn Jean.
12 reviews4 followers
June 20, 2017
Less a serious deconstruction of pop culture than a melange of disjointed references by a writer who seems to care more about showing off his lame rock-fan credentials than offering thoughtful analysis and cultural critique. Alas, there's no new ground covered, no obscure music discoveries to be made. Why the hell am I reading about Moby? The thing about commercial radio is that it's full of music not worth writing about. I don't want to read about Saved By the Bell either. I watched it every day after school, and that's where our relationship ends. I realize he thinks he's elevating the banal to the sublime, but some things really are mindless, and even a more capable wordsmith would have difficulty transcending the poor choice of generational touchstones. His half-assed, armchair philosopher chin-scratching is almost embarrassing to witness, like listening to a barfly extoll the intellectual virtues of playing KENO. It feels like a literary impression of Jonathan Lethem's 'The Disappointment Artist' but without any of the rich personal history. As it turns out, the title is apt: most of us already know as much as we need to about sex, drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. Someone should have loaned Klosterman a copy of 'Please Kill Me' decades ago; maybe if he'd really had his mind blown back then he mighf have more to say now.
Profile Image for Diana Jou.
11 reviews3 followers
December 19, 2007
Anything that calls itself a "low culture manifesto" is really one of two things; 1) an emotional teenager trying to write his/her first novel 2) a middle age man trying to remember the carefree days of his youth.

The chapters are organized like a "cd mix tape" complete with arbitrary lengths of time. They even included a picture of a cd and jewel case to ingrain it in your brain.

I read chapter one, "This is Emo 0:01" and that was too much already.
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,819 followers
November 28, 2008
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.
Profile Image for d4.
351 reviews179 followers
December 9, 2008
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.
1 review1 follower
August 1, 2009
Any book that begins with an amusing foray into the ways in which Lloyd Dobler has effectively destroyed the author's chance for real love (and perhaps the fake kind too) is a book that I immediately want to like. However, Klosterman essentially reels you in with his lighthearted, self-effacing opener only to assault you with a series of overgeneralized, matter-of-fact (yet largely unsupported) assertions about human behavior in the essays that follow.

While several of his essays offer moments of insight and wit, what makes the majority of his analyses of pop-culture and social behavior difficult to digest is the obnoxious (and at times, pseudo-intellectual) tone with which they are delivered. You sort of get the feeling that his ability to skillfully deconstruct pop-culture has led him to believe that he is an expert in all things American. What's worse is that he seems to want you to believe it too. That said, if you can look beyond the grating tone of these essays and accept Klosterman's musings as nothing more than one man's opinions--and relatively inconsequential ones at that, then you might be able to enjoy some of the entertaining and bizarrely funny anecdotes that are offered throughout his self-described "manifesto."
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