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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Frequently Hilarious Essays on Pop Culture
In the footsteps of Klosterman's Midwestern memoir/history of hair metal (Fargo Rock City) comes this collection of eighteen essays bearing the asterixed subtitle "A Low Culture Manifesto". The subtitle itself speaks volumes about the author's general style:a hyper-ironically witty phrase that displays a certain level of erudition along with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge...
Published on 23 Jan. 2004 by A. Ross

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars All Puffed Out
There are two types of book that seem to have come on in a big way in recent years. The first is what my local bookstore calls "Tragic True Life Stories", in which authors with a tragic past tell their story. The other is collected essays and columns, as it seems that any celebrity writer with a regular newspaper column gets the chance to have them collected...
Published 3 months ago by Mr. Iain R. Wear


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Frequently Hilarious Essays on Pop Culture, 23 Jan. 2004
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
In the footsteps of Klosterman's Midwestern memoir/history of hair metal (Fargo Rock City) comes this collection of eighteen essays bearing the asterixed subtitle "A Low Culture Manifesto". The subtitle itself speaks volumes about the author's general style:a hyper-ironically witty phrase that displays a certain level of erudition along with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge. Klosterman is almost exactly my age, which means that our broad exposure pop culture exposure has been nearly identical, and while I greatly enjoyed the majority of the essays, there's a tension in his writing between wanting to make fun of low culture, and wanting to treat it seriously. It's the same tension (and flaw) of Fargo Rock City—he's writing about his guilty pleasures, but can't quite commit to the guilt or the pleasure. All that aside, I've probably recommended this book to more friends of mine than any other in recent months.
If you browse it in the store be aware that the first essay (about how John Cusak, and emo songsmiths like Coldplay have made the concept of love very tricky for Gen Xers—or at least middle-class white ones), is far and away the best in the book. Which is not to say there isn't a lot of other great stuff. The second essay, about the computer game The Sims, is hugely funny (if only slightly insightful) and the fifth (which first ran in The New York Times Magazine) is an engaging account of a weekend spent on the road with a Guns N' Roses cover band. The sixth is also quite strong, being a comparison of Pamela Anderson with Marilyn Monroe that seeks to explain how the role of celebrity has changed over the half-century between them. His essay on internet porn is brief, funny, and moderately thoughtful. Essay ten, on children's breakfast cereals is almost entirely tongue in cheek, and is hilarious. His thirteenth essay wins the prize for best title ("The Awe-Inspired Beauty of Tom Cruise's Shattered, Troll-like Face"), and is a mostly enjoyable muddle of thoughts about contemporary film. After this is a rather wandering (but good) piece on the popularity of country music. Essays sixteen and seventeen are all about the media. The first is a sort of general purpose "here's the truth about the media from an insider" piece, and the second is a very keen report on music critic's conference. Closing things out is a critique of the wildly popular "Left Behind" series. I would recommend all of these to various of my friends.
However, a third of the book isn't so good.. The third essay is about MTV's The Real World series, and fails to make any original points about the reality genre. The fourth is a tortured attempt to explain why Billy Joel is cool, and fails on all levels. The seventh entry is a really weak anti-soccer piece that is a total failure except for a portion where he details his job as a youth baseball coach and subsequent firing. The next essay, about the Lakers/Celtics rivalry of the '80s is equally muddled, and incoherent (probably way more so to those who weren't paying attention to the NBA in the '80s). Essay eleven is about the seminal TV show Saved By the Bell, which I've never watched, so that one went right over my head. This is followed by a rather weak essay attempting to tie Gen X malaise to The Empire Strikes Back.
Klosterman's writing style is kind of love it or hate it (I love it). He's too clever and sarcastic by half, and doesn't mind showing it off, which can be kind of refreshing. He's also one of the best writers I've encountered when it comes to profanity—he uses it a lot and quite naturally, which helps to draw you into his bizarre little world. He's also a hilarious footnoter, for example, his essay on Internet porn starts: "When exactly did every housewife in America become a whore?" with the footnote reading "Except of course, my mom." He's also a very prolific digressor, which may infuriate those who want writers to adhere to their one main point, but I rather enjoy the little side trips. I found the 2/3 of the essays that I liked so engaging that I'm willing to let the other 1/3 slide—this time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful!, 3 Aug. 2005
By 
Rolf Dobelli "getAbstract" (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Although he covers wildly varied topics, Chuck Klosterman's lively, stylish collection of essays speaks for and largely to one generation: Gen X. The author focuses not just on pop culture, but instead on pop culture's detritus. He doesn't discuss the best pop culture products. Rather, he covers the random bits and pieces that interest him. Some of these subjects merit his attention, such as popular television shows like The Real World, which have shaped later genres. Some of the other topics to which Klosterman turns his intelligence, ready wit (and occasionally profane tongue) are less obviously relevant - such as the meaning of breakfast cereal ads. He would argue that it doesn't matter, that everything in a society is connected and every part of popular culture tells us something about the way of life that produced it. Even so, you could still debate just what these specific items communicate - and while Klosterman's conclusions are always entertaining, many of them are highly debatable. In the areas such as music and celebrity journalism, where he is deeply experienced, his conclusions are more convincing and his ideas are most interesting. In other areas where he seems to spin positions from a more limited perspective, he is intriguing, but much less convincing. Despite this mixed menu and mixed perspective, we recommend this clever manuscript to pleasure readers who want a fun ride through pop land and to serious readers who are trying to understand the Gen X mindset.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars All Puffed Out, 10 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto (Paperback)
There are two types of book that seem to have come on in a big way in recent years. The first is what my local bookstore calls "Tragic True Life Stories", in which authors with a tragic past tell their story. The other is collected essays and columns, as it seems that any celebrity writer with a regular newspaper column gets the chance to have them collected together in book form every so often. Unfortunately, Jeremy Clarkson seems to be the front runner in this particular sub-genre.

I don't know where the essays that make up Chuck Klosterman's "Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs" may have appeared previously, but the style of the book is certainly very similar. Klosterman doesn't seem to have a specialist subject like most, although the book is subtitled "A Low Culture Manifesto", which provides some indication of where his interests lie.

Klosterman writes on subjects which I suspect are aimed at a slightly younger audience or one more knowledgeable about popular culture than I am. He takes on more or less every aspect of life; music, film, television, sport, internet pornography and breakfast cereals. In various essays, he compares Pamela Anderson and Marilyn Monroe, explains why the Tom Cruise film "Vanilla Sky" was actually better than most film critics told us and gives the reasons why "soccer" will never take off in America.

Two things are immediately obvious in reading many of Klosterman's essays. The first is that for many of his subjects, I have absolutely no idea what he is talking about. There's a long essay based around the MTV program "The Real World", which I had only barely heard of, which was completely lost on me, although I think I followed the more general point he was trying to make.

This is the case with the majority of Klosterman's essays in this book. His writing is centred on American pursuits and culture, which doesn't always translate particularly well into English culture. Whilst there may be few English people who are completely unaware of people like Marilyn Monroe and Tom Cruise, the intricacies of coaching little league baseball will be unfamiliar territory to most of us, I suspect.

That said, when Klosterman strays into subject areas I know more about and I am better able to follow his train of thought, it then becomes clear how intelligent a writer he actually is. Anyone who can make a case for comparison between Van Halen and the Dixie Chicks and, even more, make it seem plausible, has to be congratulated. It is perhaps Klosterman's greatest achievement that he manages to write so expertly on such a wide range of different subjects and make the most unlikely of hypotheses seem relevant and believable.

The major problem I have with Klosterman's writing is that he tends to take a long time proving his hypotheses. He regularly disappears off onto obscure tangents before finally circling round and coming to the point from some strange direction before vanishing off on another tangent and coming back once more. This is particularly noticeable in his essay on Billy Joel, where he makes the same point in a similar fashion several times. Perhaps when the essays were originally written he had to fill a certain word count, but in this form it feels like he's waffling just to fill space.

When he does keep to his subject, though, Klosterman proves that he can write well. His essay on following a Guns 'N' Roses tribute band seems to have no agenda other than to report their actions, along with maybe making a minor point about the state of the music industry. Because of this, he has no tangents to go off on and he largely keeps to the subject, making this the easiest to read essay here.

At times Klosterman seems too intelligent for his own good, although it could be that he's just too intelligent for me. Much of his writing I found unfathomable, although I do believe that was down to his knowledge being in totally different areas to mine. Someone with a more rounded knowledge of American pop culture would probably find this a far better read than I did. Even here, however, there is one word of warning; the book was first published in 2003 and so is starting to seem a little dated now. In a couple of points, I did wonder why he had failed to use certain examples, before it occurred to me that the example wouldn't have existed at the time of writing. If this is something you'd be interested in, it's an intelligent and rewarding read; but for me that was only true around half of the time.

This review may also appear, in whole or in part, under my name at any or all of www.ciao.co.uk, www.thebookbag.co.uk, www.goodreads.com, www.amazon.co.uk and www.dooyoo.co.uk
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I like Chuck Klosterman, 17 Sept. 2007
By 
A. Miles (Al Khor, Qatar) - See all my reviews
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Perhaps because rock music has become less interesting, or more likely because music magazines have become more corporate, hardly anyone anymore writes anything insightful about pop culture: Simon Reynolds and Chuck here are exceptions. Despite a low strike rate here - the stuff about 'The Real World' is fairly obvious, for instance - Klosterman's obvious love and understanding of pop detritus is constantly engaging. The Billy Joel essay brings insights into vast areas of the pop experience that I'd never even thought about before. Recommended.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A writer with a talent but lacking an interesting topic, 12 Feb. 2015
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Micky (Ayrfield, Dublin) - See all my reviews
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I have to agree with another reviewer that this is geared towards younger audience, under 25's perhaps but then again they'd get lot with the Real World, Guns & Roses and Julia and Lyle references etc. which were part of the late 80s early 90s lexicon.

Being of this vintage, I found the chapter on the Real World interesting. It brought back memories of a show I had loved but long forgotten. However, I was struggling to recall the characters. On to the chapter on the covers band, it was a good read and I think music is where Chuck excels. Next up was Chuck's self-psychoanalysis on his feelings for Marilyn Monroe and contrasting this with his tepid interest in Pam Anderson. What he said simply didn't resonate with me and this is what (I think) Chuck tries to do, he tries to touch on things you subconsciously feel but perhaps never expressed.

I thought the Pam Anderson/Marilyn stuff was drivel and started to skim ahead. On to the anti-soccer chapter. I played for 30 years but I accept many Americans don't get it. But Chuck clearly hasn't a clue on this topic and he lost me with his assertions 'Most children don't love soccer' and 'its the only sport where you can't f-up'. He might get away with this with a US audience but not elsewhere in the world.

There is no doubting the authors capability in turn of phrase - his fantastic choice of words. But when he devotes a page to the problem of using the metaphor 'comparing apples with oranges' I feel this discussion/book it isn't worth my time anymore.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Klosterman V: Satisfaction at last?, 2 Dec. 2007
Mr. Klosterman opens by stating that no woman will ever satisfy him. By the end, he's put down half of America, wants to punch Magic Johnson, slams cover bands plus Kid Rock, and even takes a jab at Jenny McCarthy (but who can blame him on this last point!). Mr. Klosterman is a very angry man; he would say he's honest, I would say he's angry. In his defense, he's a very good writer, who's analytical, has an interesting take on things, and has a creative way of expressing himself. Overall, this is actually a pretty entertaining read that I also found a bit unpleasant due to his vitriol. Author of Adjust Your Brain: A Practical Theory for Maximizing Mental Health.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Yet another gift, 12 Jan. 2014
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LindaT (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto (Paperback)
This was also bought as a gift and was received at Christmas by my nephew who was really pleased with it and was ready to start reading it immediately. Good delivery service as well.
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3.0 out of 5 stars It was alright, some articles were interesting. Most ..., 16 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto (Paperback)
It was alright, some articles were interesting. Most of the stuff he said was a combination of insightfulness and stupidness.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 29 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto (Paperback)
A great book. The hypothetical questions included kept my friends and I debating for hours.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Do I have to be American to get this?, 9 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto (Paperback)
Maybe it's because I wasn't brought up on the arid reverence of Rolling Stone, but this takes interesting topics and converts them into juvenile waffle. With personality-led writing you need to like or at least be entertained by the person whom you are reading, so I may come to concede that it's not Chuck, it's me. Yet there's something really quite depressing about reading a thirty year old man telling you about the 'chicks' he's bedded, something rather boring about an essay on The Real World - irrelevant over here and already makes the book seem dated - and the whole thing is awfully affected. Charlie Brooker may be more acerbic and less analytical, but his take on pop culture is far, far more entertaining, and there are many wonderful bloggers out there doing this stuff better and with greater relevance and wit - I couldn't bring myself to finish this, and I speak as someone who reads both Popjustice and essays on the sexual semiotics of Hello Kitty. This book should have been right up my street. What a disappointment.
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Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto by Chuck Klosterman (Paperback - 7 Feb. 2008)
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