Low Culture?

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture ManifestoSex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto by Chuck Klosterman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have to admit that hearing the author speaking in a radio interview about something completely different failed to improve my mental image of him… using his method of comparison, he strikes me as the kid who got bullied and developed his intellect to compensate. This alone wouldn’t be an issue. I had a great many fistfights with bullies in my distant youth. The problem is that he is now relatively successful and gives the impression that deep in his core he believes he is super witty and important. I use the term believes on purpose. It’s a position to be stated and defended much like the agent in the movie Serenity without the gravitas. My feelings on the author are only important because this book is his ‘manifesto’ (still no gravitas).

I don’t normally read the cover blurbs because they are either paid or from a friend of the author and don’t actually help anyone decide a book is worth reading. I should have read the back cover material this time ~ particularly the part about “exasperating”.

I can’t recall how this book ended up on my reading list but I do remember being interested. I’m not sure I should have been and I’m very glad this was a loaner and not something I purchased. One of my biggest issues with this book is that it is tied so directly to pop culture it becomes tied to (directed at) a specific generation by default. It is unlikely that my daughter will ever watch Saved By The Bell and IF she does it is even less likely it will mean anything to her. For a manifesto this is a major flaw.

One other big issue I have is that I frequently disagree with the position forwarded by the author. Example: The only reason ‘The Real World’ matter is because it exists as a clear, distinct signpost at the end of MTV being culturally relevant. It is the moment they became the punchline “…when they used to play music”.

I will say there are small parts of the book I found amusing and useful as conversation starters. These were offset by my own juxtaposition with other vaguely similar material. I suspect it’s that particular comparison that doesn’t help. I watched a war documentary. In that a soldier discusses the mind numbing boredom that was everything between the shattering adrenaline spikes produced by combat. During those quiet times the men had explored any and all ‘getting to know you’ bits of discussion and stretched to find something ~anything~ to talk about. This lead directly to a six hour argument about who would win a fistfight, Fabio or George Clooney. Who would find this important or engaging? People right on the edge of insanity or people truly desperate for something to do. This author was clearly desperate for something to do.

One of the most maddening aspects of this whole thing is the language of your high school English class being levered into a conversation about cereal and how that directly relates to the meaning of life. It’s bad cereal too (I’ve never liked Cocoa Puffs, even as a kid). There are statements like, “…well suited for conventional moralizing…” when connected to media seem to support his position. All I could remember during these parts was my heartfelt desire to scream out in class, “ALL OF THIS TERRIBLE BOOK IS ABOUT TRYING TO KILL YOURSELF BY SLEDDING INTO A TREE! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! This is the stupidest thing ever”.

I think that’s really it – if you’re looking for dated material that thinks it’s funnier than it is, this book is for you. I’m left with the ‘are you kidding me’ feeling and I’m more than a bit relived that I can give the book back.

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