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Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True…
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Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story

by Chuck Klosterman

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Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
I really like Klosterman's writing, but this made me hate the man. The ending is fascile and lazy. Read "Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs" instead. For a better description of what is to hate about this book that serves also as a cautionary tale for would-be writers about what an audience most definitely ain't interested in reading about, read "Mike's" review here (he gives the book a star):

Mike rated it: 12/05/07
bookshelves: nonfiction
Read in April, 2005

As a longtime admirer of Chuck Klosterman’s writing on pop music and culture, it pains me to report that his latest book, Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story, is a dismal, shoddy piece of work. The premise is promising: Klosterman sets out on a cross-country road trip to visit all of the sites of rock ’n’ roll’s long, rich history of death. It seems a brilliant idea — Klosterman’s combination of irreverence and curiosity make him the perfect candidate to unseat the holy-pilgrimage seriousness (and pathos) of most writing on rock ’n’ roll tragedy.

It doesn’t take long for the project to turn sour. Here’s the problem: Klosterman is used to skating by on the wit and originality of his own personal world-view; in his last collection, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, his observations on MTV, pornography, video games, and so on, emerged from a perspective that led him to some surprising conclusions. There was a sense of play, of intellectual gamesmanship, that was fresh and engaging. In Killing Yourself, however, he’s become self-reflexive to the point where he can no longer discriminate between what is valuable and what is piffle; it’s all self-narrative. If he’s looking at something, he thinks his reaction to it — how it affects him — automatically matters simply because it’s him, Chuck Klosterman, looking at it. He has become too lazy and uninterested to make any serious effort at thinking or observing and analyzing what a specific site or incident might mean, and falls back on relaying what it means to him, at that moment.

The most devastating element here is the incomprehensible decision to let Klosterman devote much of the book to pseudo-Hornby writhing about the three (!) women with whom he’s currently involved (that is, either sleeping with or wanting to sleep with). Aside from being, at times, downright creepy, it’s both lazy and irrelevant: as smart and funny and interesting as Chuck Klosterman is, I couldn’t really give two shits about his love life. His self-absorption on this count goes so far as to include a chapter-long conversation between the three women and himself that takes place entirely in his head. What’s sad is that he seems to realize this; the book closes with an actual, real-world conversation between the author and one of his female colleagues at Spin, who urges him not to become “the female Elizabeth Wurtzel.” At this point, one tends to agree wholeheartedly with the criticism, and Klosterman’s only retort is to tell her that “her disdain can only be voiced if I do the opposite of what you suggest.” It’s pre-emptive critical damage control. It’s embarrassing.

It is unsettling to see how turning Klosterman loose on such a promising theme brings out his worst instincts as a writer, because his feature pieces for Spin are often brilliant. A perfect example was his reporting on the Rock Cruise, one of those only-in-America phenomena wherein 40-year-old couples pay to hear REO Speedwagon and Styx perform on a boat. It is hard to imagine a riper opportunity for superiority and ridicule, yet Klosterman never condescends to these people — working-class Midwesterners who are paying money to see over-the-hill versions of the two of the most reviled bands in rock history — and in the end lends both the bands and fans an odd kind of dignity. It is frustrating to know that the author is capable of such insights and then to slog through 235 pages of crap that wouldn’t make it onto a Weezer B-side. One can only hope Killing Yourself was just something he needed to get out of his system.

From THE L MAGAZINE, July 20 2005...less
( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
What is it about premature death that makes musicians so famous?

That's the question that Spin editor Sia Michel used to convince Chuck Klosterman to embark on an epic road trip across America to visit the places where musicians met their demise.
Killing Yourself to Live started out as a feature article for Spin, but ended up book-length when Klosterman decided to pack the story full of his musing on past lovers, turning this travelogue into a memoir. This article/book was supposed to follow a standard script. At the end of his journey, his coworker, Lucy asks him some questions.

"Are you going to be able to write a compelling story that will dissect the perverse yet undeniable relationship between celebrity and mortality? Will the narrative illustrate how society glamorizes dying in order to perpetuate the hope that death validates life? Will you be able to prove that living is dying, and that we're all slowly dying through every moment of life" (233)?

That's not the story Klosterman came up with, however. In the end he realized that "love and death and rock 'n' roll are the same experience" (234).

This memoir is painfully narcissistic (not to mention exploitative of his relationships), but his brutal honesty makes for compelling reading. Klosterman doesn't seem to care what the reader will think of him or his moral choices. Add to this his encyclopedic knowledge of rock and roll culture and you get Killing Yourself to Live: a window into the mind of one of our generation's best cultural critics. ( )
  StephenBarkley | Dec 22, 2015 |
While writing at Spin, Klosterman is sent on an "epic" assignment of his choice. He decides to road trip around the United States, visiting places where rock stars have met their ends. As usual, Klosterman's obscure music knowledge is incredibly interesting to read about - learning lots of assorted trivia without having to seek it out on your own. I loved that this book also included an inspection of his own relationships, including the "deaths" of two of them. Klosterman has a great way of writing intimately about himself, but somehow taking himself out of it. I think he gives out just enough personal information to leave the reader to complete the story, without exploiting those he knows by spilling his guts across the page. ( )
  howifeelaboutbooks | Nov 4, 2015 |
OK, so Chuck Klosterman veers into, well, nonsense quite often, but it's wonderfully yummy nonsense and I'd still marry him in an instant if he asked. Not that he will. But I'm just sayin'. ( )
  Seven.Stories.Press | Jun 13, 2014 |
The loose premise of he book is that Klosterman goes cross country to visit the sites at which various rock figures, some of marginal renown, have perished. More a book of late youth ruminations about the vagaries of love and attraction and trying to find the crossroad where the two meet. Not Klosterman's best but the guy is clever and entertaining to read. And pages 188-93 is some of the funniest shit I have ever read. Maybe not Klosterman's best but definitely worthwhile. ( )
  RDHawk6886 | Aug 21, 2012 |
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Epigraph
I tell you what's really ridiculous - going into a bookstore and there's all these books about yourself. In a way, it feels like you're already dead. ~Thom Yorke
Dedication
First words
I am not qualified to live here.
Quotations
The fact that [Sid Vicious] could not do something correctly, yet still do it significantly is all anyone needs to know about punk rock. That notion is punk rock, completely defined in one sentence.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743264460, Paperback)

For 6,557 miles, Chuck Klosterman thought about dying. He drove a rental car from New York to Rhode Island to Georgia to Mississippi to Iowa to Minneapolis to Fargo to Seattle, and he chased death and rock 'n' roll all the way. Within the span of twenty-one days, Chuck had three relationships end -- one by choice, one by chance, and one by exhaustion. He snorted cocaine in a graveyard. He walked a half-mile through a bean field. A man in Dickinson, North Dakota, explained to him why we have fewer windmills than we used to. He listened to the KISS solo albums and the Rod Stewart box set. At one point, poisonous snakes became involved. The road is hard. From the Chelsea Hotel to the swampland where Lynyrd Skynyrd's plane went down to the site where Kurt Cobain blew his head off, Chuck explored every brand of rock star demise. He wanted to know why the greatest career move any musician can make is to stop breathing...and what this means for the rest of us.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:15 -0400)

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For 6,557 miles, Chuck Klosterman thought about dying. He drove a rental car from New York to Rhode Island to Georgia to Mississippi to Iowa to Minneapolis to Fargo to Seattle, and he chased death and rock 'n' roll all the way. Within the span of twenty-one days, Chuck had three relationships end--one by choice, one by chance, and one by exhaustion. The road is hard. From the Chelsea Hotel to the swampland where Lynyrd Skynyrd's plane went down to the site where Kurt Cobain blew his head off, Chuck explored every brand of rock star demise. He wanted to know why the greatest career move any musician can make is to stop breathing...and what this means for the rest of us.--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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