Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story

ISBN: 0743264460
ISBN 13: 9780743264464
By: Chuck Klosterman

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About this book

Building on the national bestselling success of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, preeminent pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman unleashes his best book yet—the story of his cross-country tour of sites where rock stars have died and his search for love, excitement, and the meaning of death.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.

Reader's Thoughts

AJ Griffin

...and Mr. Klosterman and I officially fall in love. If you're going to date me, you should read this book. If you want to learn how to smoke marijuana resin using parts of your car, you should read this. Don't read this book if you have epilepsy.


This is the book that got me hooked on Chuck Klosterman. However, none of his other books could compare to this one in my opinion. As soon as I finished this book I went right back to the beginning and read it all over again! So interesting and well written.

Morgue Anne

I am going to start this review by saying that Chuck's friend was right. He shouldn't have published this book. I picked it up (or, rather, was given) thinking that it would be an exploration of sites where dead rockers perished. Growing up in Seattle, I was bred with an intense love of Kurt Cobain. Growing up goth, I have an intense love of death. So this book would have been a LOT better in my mind if it had either a) Actually talked more about dead rock stars or b) Been a little clearer that this book had nothing to do with dead rock stars. I spend the whole 250 or so pages listening to a man complain because he's getting too much tail. True, he is very quotable at times and brings up some valid points about god, infidelity, and the like, but other than that, he just whined for thousands of miles about how his girlfriends were like KISS. Maybe worth a read if you're a liberal arts major who watches Wes Anderson movies and thinks Ed Hardy is the most amazing form of popular art the fashion world has ever seen. This book should be on "Stuff White People Like". Book 20/150


In general, I read to learn something new or for vindication. I read Klosterman for vindication: I feel smarter when a real-life writer puts out things that I have been thinking to myself. It makes me feel deep even if by rule this is shallow thinking.


** spoiler alert ** I was disappointed. Klosterman has always been a super self-aware writer making interesting commentary on pop culture, often bringing a philosphical element that I certainly haven't seen before, but this goes to levels of ridiculousness in this book. On the surface this looks like an interesting story (85% of a true one) that involves his search for the sites where rock stars died - the assignment was for an article, but as his cross country search wears on, he finds he can only think about the women in his life and how they remind him of members of the band KISS. I have trouble deciding if the chapter where these women have an imaginary argument with him, where one even says that they all speak in his voice in his syntax because he's the one controlling / editing the whole conversation, was brilliant(and I didn't really get it), or if it was simply tedious. This all might have been a very satisfying read for someone else (perhaps someone who knows more about rock & roll), but not for me.


I barely got through this. The author is too full of himself. Constantly on about every woman he fucked or how the woman he wanted did something so horrible that he didn't want to be her friend, but he cant tell the reader what it is, you just have to trust his douchey opinion. Get this book away from me.


I wanted this book to be a Sarah Vowell's "Assassination Vacation"-style account of the US history of rock n roll deaths as narrated by the typically witty Chuck Klosterman. That seemed like that's what this book was going to be. BUT IT WAS NOT. RNR history occupies maybe 2% of this book. 3% = talking about how great he thinks Radiohead is, 3% = talking about how great he thinks KISS is, 10% = talking about writing about music for a living and how much he hates the idea of this roadtrip, 30% = boring stories about Chuck's ex-girlfriends (seriously "we talked about horses" is a line that is included in this book TWICE), 5% quotable funniness, 47% Chuck gets stoned, alone, and denies he is an addict.I kind of can't see how anybody can complain about two weeks of road tripping. But whatever, Chuck's world is not my world.Additionally, I find it totally disgusting and reprehensible that Klosterman says retarded people are unlikeable.p.120, Chuck's having an imaginary conversation with his ex-girlfriends: " 'What would happen if I stopped being funny? What if I became retarded? What if I stopped listening to you whenever you talk about why you like shopping for boots? How long would it be before you stopped talking to me?''That, in a nutshell is why you don't understand what 'Layla' is about,' Quincy would interject. 'Diane brought up qualities that make someone physically unattractive. You are bringing up qualities that make someone unlikable.'... Quincy is making a valid point, if I do say so myself."Where were his editors? Where's the content of this book? I prefer when Chuck sticks to writing about pop culture and NOT his female troubles since he clearly has serious, serious issues with women. (See my review of "Fargo Rock City" for more on that point: )Ultimately, the author should have listened to his friend Lucy Chance.


I found this book to be somewhat self involved and irrelevant. If someone paid me exorbitant amounts of money to travel around visiting the sites of rockstars' deaths, I could probably produce something at least as amusing as this. Chuck Klosterman is one of those audiophile dorks, for whom every single minute aspect of life relates back to some obscure alternative song. Also...I hate Kiss and AC/DC, so reading a five page diatribe about how each of his past girlfriends relates to a specific Kiss solo album is NOT my idea of a good time, and is kind of a retarded analogy in the first place. I will say, though, that I liked and was amused by analysis of Led Zeppelin and its importance as a band. Basically he says that every boy (what about the ladies, chuck?) experiences Led Zeppelin in the same way and goes through a period where they listen to nothing BUT Led Zeppelin and are wholeheartedly convinces that Led Zeppelin is the best, most meaningful, rockinest band in the world. I wholeheartedly agree with this. And what's funny is that my Led Zeppelin phase didn't occur until I was like 25 years old! On the whole though, this was definitely a dude book, and not a great one at that.

Ashley Butler

If you want to learn about dead musicians and how they died, look elsewhere. 1/3 Into this book and I still haven't learned a thing. The title of this book should be My Boring Life - it is all irrelevant rambles on the author's friends, relationships, drug use, and work. I decided to pull the plug during a part in the book where he says, "I wonder how long it would take someone to find me if I died on top of this hill and who would care. Tommy would call Billy who would call Timmy would call Suzy who would call..." STFU


Klosterman is an incredible writer, he definitely has a way with words. Unfortunately a good portion of this book is directionless, arrogant music rambling fodder. Which I still found completely interesting.

Arjun Mishra

I cannot really say that I care much for the premise of Klosterman's trip: visiting the death places of seminal musicians. I'm slightly interested in the societal reactions and beliefs surrounding the deaths, ergo the significance of Cobain's death. I'm more interested in Klosterman's story and most interested in his drawing of the world through basketball and KISS. That I can identify and understand. I read Klosterman for the music and basketball, hence I love his Grantland articles. The travel can be informative, especially when he travels to isolated places that I have little more than an inkling about: Montana, Fargo, Washington, Minnesota. It seems like he undertook a physically and mentally tasking trip, but for which reason I don't know. I certainly don't demand it of him. I desire the musical and tangential analyses, but I don't require the examination of famous rock stars death sites to relate those stories. If other readers do, then great, but the premise is still an excuse to me.The geography being what it was, I appreciate some of the discussion on musical deaths. Dying is an important part of being a musician and future remembrance, hence Cobain once again. Elvis' legacy seems to be his early death. We could go on. If a rock star does not die young, he inevitably turns into a caricature of an old man (or woman in Steven Tyler's case). The rock star needs to be memorialized young.

Katherine Furman

Chuck Klosterman is an engaging writer--easy to understand, explicit, and simplistic. But he's also a pretentious rock critic who basically threw together a book from the a lackluster journal that was published solely on the coattails of the success of his earlier book, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. The premise of is that Chuck is going to travel to famous sites across America where rock 'n roll related deaths occurred: the Great White club fire, the crossroads where Duane Allman died on his motorcycle, that kind of stuff. And while that stuff is in there, it is almost a footnote. The book is predominantly the author pining over his lost and unrequited loves. His egotism and self-deprecation in order to avoid sounding egotistical was too much to take. Even his initial description of how he came to go on this ambulance chasing road trip smacked of egotism and affectations. He and his tall, thin, gorgeous editor at Spin think he should something "epic," yeah, really epic, but what's epic? What does it mean to be epic? Right then and there I wanted to start a small, yet epic fire in my wastebasket.


Let me start by saying I generally like my job. Sure, there are days where I show up and can't wait to go home, but in general, it's alright. That being said. I work in a cubicle for a big corporation in Austin, TX. I _am_ what the movie Office Space is about. When that movie first started to gain cult status, every fucking person I worked with would say "Oh, man, that movie is about me." Really? Really? You just quit going to work one day? And then you asked out waitress? And then you stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from your employer? And then you quit your job and went to work construction? Because if not, I'm pretty sure that movie is not "about you." But ANYWAY, if I were to follow my Office Space journey it would not end with a burned down building and me shoveling crap into a wheelbarrow, it would end with me being Chuck Klosterman. Now, I have neither the desire nor the talent nor the skill nor the inclination to really do what he does. I mean, the sitting around all day doing drugs and drinking beer and writing about whatever bullshit popped in my head, that I think I could do. But the work it actually requires to write good (sic) and intersting is not really all that appealing to me. So thanks, Chuck, for following the dream that I am too lazy to.But, seriously, KISS? You love KISS?


Sex, drugs, rock’n’roll, and a road trip. Where you find these elements together, you will find Chuck Klosterman. What can I say? I ‘get’ Klosterman, insomuch as you can get a snarky music junkie who writes about his confusions about the world. I’m still not sure if this is a good or a bad thing, but I’m going for to opt for “good.” Klosterman can always make me laugh, a rare feat in my reading and viewing experiences. So, go! Read some Klosterman.

Michael Chaddock

I read an excerpt from this in a magazine - probably Rolling Stone or Spin - and liked it a lot. I'd read some Klosterman columns before and liked them, so I figured this would be a fun read.Sadly, Klosterman seems to think that his personal life is just as interesting, if not more so, than tales of rock star destruction. His life is not interesting and he seems like a jerk. One of the most disappointing reading experiences I've ever had and the first time I stopped reading a book out of disgust. It turned me against Klosterman for life.No stars.

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