Monday, January 01, 2007

Book-A-Day #168 (12/31): Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs* by Chuck Klosterman

The asterisk is in the title on the cover and the titlepage (though not the spine or the CIP data), and I am exactly the kind of geek who would not only check all four places, but to decide, on the inconclusive evidence, to include it here. (It leads to the subtitle: *A Low Culture Manifesto (Now With a New Middle).)

Anyway, this is my third Klosterman book in about two months, but I'm afraid it's the least of the three. Killing Yourself to Live was a thoughtful travelogue about trips to places where famous rock stars died, and Fargo Rock City was a history of '80s hair metal disguised as a memoir. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs* is structured like a "mix CD," and, as far as I can tell, is supposed to be Klosterman's manifesto for his over-arching theories of pop culture. However, it feels more like the non-fiction equivalent of a fix-up (even though only two of the pieces are credited as previously appearing, they all feel like individual magazine essays).

I also don't trust Klosterman's judgments when he comes within spitting distance of anything I know anything about. When he's writing about popular music (usually of types I don't really like myself), he's very entertaining, but his whole shtick is that he's the critic who really likes the popular stuff, and explains why that popular stuff is not just popular, but more important than the stuff critics usually like. That works much better with rock music, where the self-absorbed critic -- who only likes the most obscure, unenjoyable crap imaginable -- is an established stereotype. But when Klosterman turns his talents to the early '90s crap-com Saved By the Bell, or spends close to ten thousand words on his The Real World obsession, he just seems like a creepy loser who needs to get out more. (And his cultural assumptions of what "everybody" cares about are generally those of a poorly socialized Midwestern farm boy.)

I think this means that I'll wait for his fourth book (the recently published Chuck Klosterman IV, which is explicitly a collection of previously-published pieces) to come out in trade paperback instead of buying it in hardcover. Not only will it match the other three that way, but the lower cost will help manage expectations.

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

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