You’ve got to love Chuck Klosterman. Any man who can start an essay by relating the story of how he burned that exact same CD for two different women, then segue into a serious discussion of the lamentable sitcom Saved By Bell deserves respect. It's this gift that makes his Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs something of a treasure.
Klosterman, a senior writer for Spin, has a gift for taking seemingly disposable culture (Billy Joel albums, The Real World, the Pamela Anderson-Tommy Lee sex tape) and giving them a cultural heft and importance.
In fact, reading, Klosterman’s meditations on such topics as how the creation of cereal was a Victorian attempt to cool sexual urges, or how the failed relationships of today’s twenty-and-thirty-somethings can be blamed either on John Cusack or Nora Ephron are so insightful and enlightening, it seems baffling that no one has written on these topics before.
Of course, he’s also funny as hell. Klosterman now joins a select group of writers who can make me laugh out loud in public without fear of embarrassment. Take this nugget, from an essay deconstructing the Star Wars trilogy: “I once knew a girl who claimed to have a recurring dream about a polar bear that mauled Ewoks; it made me love her.”
Perhaps the best piece here is “Appetite For Replication,” a profile of an earnest Guns N’ Roses tribute band called Paradise City. Klosterman is both teasing and affectionate when describing “Paradise” frontman Randy Trask (standing in for GNR frontman Axl Rose):
“I have never met anyone who needs sleep less. Trask once drove twenty-two hours straight to Hayes, Kansas, and played a show immediately upon arrival. If the real Axl Rose had this kind of focus, Guns N’ Roses would have released fifteen albums by now.”
And that’s the only point: underneath all the glib remarks and seemingly bizarre claims, Klosterman seems to have a genuine appreciation of popular culture. Though he doesn’t love it exactly, he never seems to doubt its power, or its ability to reflect a society. His clearest message seems to be that just because a movie or a television show or a piece of music isn’t art, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. It may, in fact, matter more than something artful. It’s a compelling idea, executed by Klosterman with brains and humor. The book isn’t art, exactly, but it matters.