Deconstructing cool: Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

In taking a month to finish Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman, I have had the opportunity to read and reread the laudatory blurbs that adorn Scribner’s first trade paperback printing.

The Onion A.V. Club calls the book “one of the brightest pieces of pop analysis to appear this century,” and the book reviewer over at GQ notes that the work is “sometimes exasperating but almost always engaging.” The key phrase in the Onion’s comment is “this century.” his book was originally published in 2003; three years is not a very long time in which to accumulate mass amounts of pop analysis. Also important is the GQ book reviewer’s choice to equivocate his or her exultation of Klosterman by including the great attenuator “almost.”

As a pop culture junkie myself somewhat, I must commend the author for his keen memory of television episodes and movie plots. Occasionally, however, the stream of name-drops and tangential references to obscure television series grows tiresome and begins to feel like a bad episode of Family Guy, but it mostly works in Klosterman’s favor.

Klosterman’s conversational tone also matches well with the book’s content. I enjoyed parts of the book very much (such as his essay on the Sims and his study of MTV’s the Real World), but I find that Klosterman too frequently generalizes for the sake of an argument, and too often he fails to consider viewpoints other than his. For instance, in the book’s “new middle,” an essay entitled “Being Zack Morris,” Klosterman incorrectly assumes that SBTB’s social and cultural resonance is limited to Generation X, which does not hurt the essay’s larger point that television shows like Saved by the Bell assist us in creating a fictionalized narrative of our high school years wherein temporary and periodic figures become permanent characters in our memories, but it does weaken his status as an effective arguer.

If Klosterman spent a moment or two more to consider paradigms different from his, I think his positions would be that much stronger. Put simply: While I liked Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, I almost loved it.

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