Chuck Klosterman's Killing Yourself to Live

Thu Sep 1, 2005

[A representative of Simon and Schuster sent me a review-copy of this book.]

Chuck Klosterman can write sentences, sometimes even paragraphs, worth preserving:

Another 30 percent of those 2,233 have been played less than five times, including one (The Best of Peter, Paul and Mary) I’ve never even listened to once–it’s still wrapped in cellophane (I store it next to a used copy of Husker Du’s Zen Arcade in the hope that they will slowly fuse into a Pixies’ B-side collection) (15).

I find myself thinking about how I used to play basketball on my farm for four hours a day, and how I used to be able to stand at the top of the key and go 17 of 20 while wearing Levi’s 501s and listening to Bon Jovi’s New Jersey on a \$40 boom box (34).

There are a lot of drunks in this world, but people in the Midwest drink differently than everywhere else I’ve ever been; it’s far less recreational. You have to stay focused, you have to work fast, and you have to swallow constantly (160).

Even if you lose your job, your hunting dog will still respect you. In life this quality is rare (190 n2).

For a time, I thought it was Robert Plant’s overt misogyny fused with Jimmy Page’s obsession with the occult, since that combination allows adolescent males to reconcile the alienation of unhinged teenage sexuality with their own inescapable geekiness (199).

Is the book itself worth reading? Sure. When I read it, I was on the road and sleep-deprived, and it seemed wittier than it did when I was going back through it just now; but it’s a book about travelling to the sites of various rock tragedies (Great White fire, Lynrd Skynrd plane crash, Cobain suicide, etc.) and recounting various personal events–psychogeography, you could call it.

Klosterman seems to be about my age, and writes things like “I have never read The Merchant of Venice, and I’ll never read it, and I don’t even care what the fuck it’s about” (21) and gives his girlfriends names like “Lenore.” He also mentions that he doesn’t like to read much anymore, and that he suspects that he’s not taken seriously by certain “intellectuals” because of it. I’d guess this stance is in reaction to the perceived effete hyperintellectualism of other varieties of rock criticism, with academic rock critics being the object of particular scorn. I don’t know how well Klosterman’s anti-jargon of authenticity works on that level, however. Though I like to be amused, I also like references to the Situationists.

[Cross-posted at The Valve]