found drama

get oblique

chocolate milk from an empty bowl

by Rob Friesel

…a review of Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

If you must, you may call it jealousy, but there is no getting around the fact that if someone had read my essays during college, and then paid me to keep writing those essays, then I could (would) have been Chuck Klosterman.1 But seriously: I feel like I could have written all of these essays (possibly better) if only someone had come along and said: Hey, you’ve got the right kind of sarcastic wit and you know how to stitch together a bunch of quasi-esoteric references… can you bang together a couple of 5,000 word essays on pop culture subjects? Only problem is that I’d probably have peaked at like 25.2

Anyway: this is Chuck Klosterman. Basically, he is the older brother that I never had–the older brother of whom I am extremely jealous. He gets all the girls. (Even if he can’t keep them.) He smokes all the best weed. (Even if he can’t handle it.) He goes to all the best concerts. (Even if he doesn’t enjoy them.) He’s seen every episode of every show, went to every game of every team, heard every record by every band, read every book by every author, taken every class by every prof, and remembered every detail about all of them.3 Thus is he the smartest kid in the room–even if he still goes around claiming to be an idiot. And despite all that, I can see right through all of his bullshit shenanigans.

And trust me: there are some bullshit shenanigans going on here.

Klosterman is lazy. Seriously: how can you (in good conscience) open an essay (“Every Dog Must Have His Every Day, Every Drunk Must Have His Drink”) with a not-at-all-oblique reference to September 11th and then not tie that back in to the overall theme? When we get to the end of “Every Dog Must…”, all he got was Billy Joel-Billy Joel-Billy Joel and the eternal struggle between Cool and Great. But he opens with “nineteen unsmiling people from the Middle East” and then he just leaves it hanging there, never to crash back into the rest of the narrative. Lazy, sloppy work.4

But for as lazy as Klosterman is, he’s sharp. He “gets it”. And how do I know that he “gets it”? Because he is harping on “that celebrity thing”–the same way that William Gibson talks about celebrity in Idoru; the same way that Bruce Sterling talks about celebrity in Holy Fire; and (to a lesser extend) the way that Neal Stephenson talks about celebrity (and/or pop culture’s collision with itself?) in Snow Crash. Yes; Chuck understands it. The bizarre world of the successful (?) cover band in “Appetite for Replication”. The meta-conflicts of the simulated life of simulated people in the simulated world of “The Sims” in “Billy Sim”. The exegesis of Pamela Anderson-vs-Marilyn Monroe-as-the-best possible-sex symbol-for-her-time in “Ten Seconds to Love”. The circular conundrum imposed by MTV’s “The Real World” and the full explication of that subject in “What Happens When People Stop Being Polite”. And that’s all in the first 85 pages. Yes indeed; he may be lazy and sloppy, but this is Chuck Klosterman at his best.5

Anyway: Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: just as easy to love as it is to hate.

  1. Only seven years later? []
  2. So… replace “jealousy” with “schadenfreude”? []
  3. Despite smoking all the best weed. []
  4. And/but that’s OK? because he writes like some sort of proto-blogger? or like a college student at a fancy liberal arts school that never bothered to graduate? And/but maybe that’s a whole big essay in and of itself? About the proto-blogger style? about the liberal artsy interest? about the elevation of pop culture and equalizing it with all of your fancy-pants schooling subject matter? []
  5. ALSO: Chuck is really at his best when he’s writing about sports. Because it’s funny when nerds write about sports. []

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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