Book review: Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs
Nadine says Chuck Klosterman’s low-culture manifesto will test your pop-culture knowledge.
Chuck Klosterman’s hilariously insightful Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs is a detailed pop-culture analysis. The commentary makes fun of lowbrow American culture while also showing his vast knowledge of it.
The series of essays reads like a bumpy car ride, going back and forth between disconnected topics. While discussing John Cusack and his appeal to all women "born between the years of 1965 and 1978," he weaves in an anecdote about an ex-girlfriend going to see Coldplay (which by the way, Klosterman hates). I liked his writing, which can make you feel like you’re having a free-flowing, all-night conversation with him. But it can also make you feel like he had one too many cups of coffee and could have spent more time editing. (An entire chapter discussing Billy Joel? A detailed account of his time spent as a groupie of Paradise Now, a Guns N’ Roses cover band?)
Klosterman is well-versed in even the most unusual happenings in entertainment and sports. In the foreword, he warns that the book is an evening book, "written in those fleeting moments just before I fall asleep."
Topics he delves into that I liked include: the When Harry Met Sally complex in which unrequited crushes between best friends are assumed to go both ways, our broken society embracing reality television and his adoration of Star Wars.
But what began as an amusing and unusual book ended up spiraling into something a little annoying. Each chapter discussed a topic more obscure than the previous one. I doubt that it was necessary to include an entire chapter devoted to the analysis of breakfast cereals, although it does pave the way for a clever title. An in-depth comparison between Marilyn Monroe and Pamela Anderson as American sex symbols was semi-interesting, but not essential. Extended information on his Sims obsession and the perks of being a born-again Christian were things I didn’t care as much about.
My favorite parts were the untitled short essays following each chapter. One details his invention of a perfect girlfriend, one explains the striking similarities between apples and oranges, and another describes a game he played at a party, in which "the goal is to figure out which television show is the closest philosophical analogy to a specific rock and roll band." Another vignette explains 23 random and detailed questions he asks everybody he meets to decide if he can really love them. After looking at the table of contents again, I realized that these random thoughts were aptly labeled interludes. They were special because they were private and original and reminded me of things me and my friends talk about.
Little pieces of Chuck’s world and the thoughts running through his mind are artfully expressed in this book. I just wish that he could have explored a few more captivating issues. Still, in a society where teenagers flock to their television sets to watch MTV’s Date My Mom, and a song called "My Humps" dominates the radio, it’s nice to know that there is someone out there mocking the more ridiculous aspects of pop culture.