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

Dennis Burke

Amazing. I Pushed this author off for such a long time only to regret it. If you haven't read Klosterman yet, take my recomendation... He's amazing

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

Sage Bartow

Killing Yourself to Live was a very enjoyable quick read, it's a nice book to read on a Sunday afternoon when you just want to relax at home with a cup of coffee or tea, or when you're on an airplane or train. This is the kind of book that you read when you have nothing else to do and you want to be entertained. Ultimately though, your personal enjoyment of the book will be dictated by whether or not you feel like you would want to be friends with Chuck Klosterman-- because the book is saturated with his own personal experience and opinions, interspersed with tidbits of rock history. I think that i I knew Chuck Klosteman in real life he would be like a friend of a friend who I talk to at parties and find mildly likable, but who I have no real connection with, which is why I gave the book 3 stars. If you were to read this book and feel like you could actually be friends with or fall in love with Klosterman than you will probably like it more, and if on the other hand you read this book and think that Klosterman's worldview is so diametrically opposed to yours that he would be the type of person than you would silently resent or hate, or want to beat the shit out of, then you will probably not enjoy this book.


If my enjoyment of a book can be measured in reading speed, this is one of the most enjoyable books I've read in a long time. I simply couldn't put it down.Now, I may be biased. I think Chuck Klosterman is totally likeable because I think, more than most people I read, he thinks like I think. And I think a lot of people have this private thought when they're reading him. Here is this nerdy guy who throws around pop culture references like sprinkles on the cupcake of his own self-deprecating over-analyzing sadness. And frankly, I think we all feel that way sometimes.But I can also see how other people might not like Klosterman. And the book isn't perfect. It moves around a lot, inserts references that aren't always clear, but thats part of its charm. Its like Klosterman wrote a particularly funny diary for us about this road trip he went on and reading it made everyone feel a little better about the times they can be a little self-absorbed or monomaniacal or just plain bad at communication.Klosterman is a reflection of all of us at our most earnest and sometimes most awkward.Now, this book is ostensibly about rock star death but I really think its about the death of one's self throughout life. How certain chapters have to be closed in order for new one's to be started. On this theme, Klosterman is poignant and heartfelt, in his own way, and it really is what makes the book so worthwhile.This book, as well as Klosterman in general, comes highly recommended. And when you read it, and fall in love with it, be sure to feel super envious of my autographed copy.

Mike Lindgren

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


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.


As I wrote in my review of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Klosterman is the poster child for postmodern American writers. His knowledge and usage of pop culture in his writing should resonate with me. Unfortunately, he makes a lot of general statements as if they are fact rather than opinion, and many of his allusions are too obscure, as if the more obscure the reference, the smarter he seems. Unlike Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs which was a collection of unrelated essays, Killing Yourself to Live is a singular work. Klosterman is instructed by his editors at Spin to travel across the country by car visiting the places where tragedies related to musicians occurred (beginning at the hotel where Sid Vicious killed Nancy Spungen, and moving to places like the venue where the Great White conflagration happened and ending in Seattle where Kurt Cobain shot himself). He documents his road trip by describing how the sites made him feel, and including conversations he has with fellow pilgrims and how they feel. Klosterman also interweaves some of his thoughts and feelings from several of his real-life relationships (a woman he is currently dating, and several from his past) into his narrative on what his journey is teaching him about life (and love) and death. Overall, it’s a much more focused and compelling read than Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs because the subject matter is deeper, and his usage of his relationships adds a level of humanity and emotion to the narrative. On the other hand, most of his writing tics still annoyed me – like the inclusion of random tangents of his opinion. For example, he spends two pages trying to convince the reader that Radiohead’s Kid A album was a foretelling of 9/11. There’s also too much self-awareness and awareness of his self-awareness – like a scene where he has an imaginary conversation with his current girlfriend and two former ones, and the imaginary voices remind him he is having this imaginary conversation. Screw you, Dave Eggers, for affecting modern nonfiction writing in this way. Fans of music and fans of Klosterman’s writing style will enjoy this, I think. For others, it’s a quick and mostly solid read with minor annoyances. Recommended.


Chuck Klosterman.....not sure how to describe this. He's. He's a stream of consciousness writer which can be hit or miss with me. For example, I hate Charles Bukowski, but I tend to like Henry Miller. I think Chuck Klosterman is snarkier and much funnier than the former and as interesting as the latter. It's hard for me to credit stream of consciousness writers with much as they pride themselves on writing off the top of their heads. They're like buying a square mile of ocean from a chef and agreeing you'll eat whatever you find in there and attribute the tastiest mouthfuls to the previous owner. That said, I'm delighted by him. He's sort of a post-modern naturalist romantic. He's living in a world which isn't anything like the world of the 19th century poet -- it's hard to explain but he doesn't think that he will never see a poem as lovely as a tree. That said, he sees meaning -- almost desperately -- in everything around him. All of his relationships, rock music, drug addled exchanges, chance encounters with random people. And when I wasn't laughing at his writing, I was finding meaning in them too. Unless I thought they were just pointless. Which also happens. But for me, not much.


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?

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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


Mr. Klosterman's friend and colleague: "I don't understand why you would want to produce a nonfiction book that will be unfavorably compared to Nick Hornby's High Fidelity."That comparison is not so unfavorable; it is incredibly apt. Book was an enjoyable Sunday afternoon read, though disconcerting that it was only written in 2003. The references and musical selections make it seem like it should be older. I mean, Steve Miller Band and Ratt--to which he VOLUNTARILY listened! For shame!

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