Reading one guy’s rambling thoughts on love, death and all relationships that fall in between doesn’t sound like material for an irresistible book. However, Chuck Klosterman’s new book, Killing Yourself to Live is the perfect mix of personal anecdotes and humorously brutal honesty. The book is an enormous undertaking of trying to discover what makes rock stars immortal in the minds of their fans.
Klosterman is a senior writer for Spin Magazine, and the idea for the book originated as a mere magazine article. Spin editor Sia Michel sent Klosterman on a journey across America to visit the locations of various rock stars’ demises. The initial idea was to find why some musicians become vastly more popular and prophetic only after their untimely death.
Klosterman begins his journey in New York City, visiting the Chelsea Hotel where Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols spent time with his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, and possibly killed her. From there, he drives a rental car he dubs the “Tauntan” to the cities of accidental plane crashes, drug overdoses and other rock tragedies. In his travels, Klosterman visits predictable hotspots such as Graceland and Kurt Cobain’s Seattle home, but also goes to several lesser-known spots in the rural Midwest.
Klosterman’s first-person style and frantic pace keep the story interesting. The pace almost feels like commercial reading, with quick blurbs about one city or situation, quickly moving on to another before the first is truly explored. He still manages to pull the reader in with his personal stories and experiences on the road.
Klosterman often gives detailed accounts of his past through flashbacks brought on by the “Tauntan’s” radio soundtrack. He details his somewhat-demolished love life and the three women who have recurring starring roles. His personal love interests become secondary characters and an essential part of the book. He writes so honestly that no reader could deny him sympathy in his lovelorn predicament. Plus, his encounters with random locals in Small Town, USA, and analyses of such are laugh-out-loud funny.
The long trip allows his writing to switch from love to death quite fluidly, as his tale and asides attempt to deconstruct much of human emotion. The subtitle to the book is “85 percent of a true story,” but the lines between truth and reality are never clearly drawn and, frankly, do not matter. His descriptions of people and surroundings are vivid; the slightly jaded sense of reality is welcome.
Fargo Rock City and Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs are two of Klosterman’s previous books. Both tackle musical pop culture and Klosterman’s personal life but fail to be as enthralling as Killing Yourself. Klosterman’s references to slightly obscure songs and bands are endless, yet perfectly poignant to fellow music followers.
Overall, Killing Yourself is a comedic novel with touching moments and outrageous antics. It is the literary equivalent of a really good, cheese-less romantic comedy starring Klosterman as the likable protagonist. The book is a good read and packs more pop-culture punch than a Best Week Ever marathon.
Released June 2005