Killing Yourself To Live

ISBN: 0571223974
ISBN 13: 9780571223978
By: Chuck Klosterman

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About this book

Travelling from New York to Mississippi to Seattle, Chuck Klosterman chases rock 'n' roll and death across a continent. 21 days later, and after three relationships, an encounter with various snakes, and a night spent snorting cocaine in a graveyard, this is his account of American culture and the meaning of celebrity.

Reader's Thoughts

Alex V.

I got a comment on an article once that said "Fuck Chuck Klostermand and his bullshit intellectualism, Cook is the new crown prince of music journalism" and who am I to disagree with SeductiveBarry's astute assessment? Ever since then, though, I've had a weird rivalry with Chuck Klosterman that, much like the romances exacted and protracted in this book, is completely one sided with myself as the hopeless loser, so outclassed that my opponent is likely unaware there is even a contest going on. I read this book in spurts over the last 6 months, basically a chapter or two every time I found myself at the bookstore for an extended period of time which has allowed me to slowly digest what is wrong with it: 1) For a critic, he has rather pedestrian tastes in music. His insight is honest and dead-on, but his subject matter generally seems undeserving of the pedestal he erects.2) This book is near wholesale rip-off of Ross McElwee's rather singular film Sherman's March, which came out 20 years before this book. Both follow through on a preposterous, dubious quest (Klosterman visits the sites of rock star deaths, McElwee retraces Sherman's march to Atlanta) only to use it as a vehicle for visiting old girlfriends and then sitting in hotel rooms reminiscing about them. But that is excusable, in that anyone with a soul and any creative talent wants to do their own Sherman's March after seeing it. McElwee is more insightful, but Klosterman is funnier and ultimately more human in the end.What's right about it is more important:1) He is funny as hell, up there with David Sedaris and John Waters as the funniest modern writers talking about their art/selves.2) This book makes me want to write more, and write more about writing, and then write more about that unafraid of how meta one can go before one finally implodes. I wanted to tear through the ending so I could write this. but, most of all3) He can project his heart with pinpoint accuracy on the reader. You fall in love with these woman that you feel you fail to know very well in the same way he fails to know them. He can make a Beckett scene out of being stoned in a Montana hotel laundromat and classical literature out of Def Lepperd .4) He's a good enough writer that he made me write this in pathetic mimicry of the tone of the book.

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.


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.

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

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


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.


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.

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


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.

Scott Huizenga

In this round, Chuck Klosterman expands a journal article into a book narrative of his cross-country trip to seek out the death sites of multiple rock stars. Unsurprisingly, he focuses most of the narrative in the Midwest, from where he hails. Also, unsurprisingly, he delivers some memorable one-liners and anecdotes mixed in with many throw-away references to KISS, Fleetwood Mac, and pop culture generally. The most refreshing aspect of Klosterman is his unapologetic focus on pop culture and rock music. For the most part, he is unpretentious (although I don't understand all the hating on Jim Morrison). He tries to deliver his references in a way that he or the reader attempts finds deeper meaning by way of analogy. But, I think even Klosterman realizes it is largely a joke. This, like most of Klosterman's material, is pretty much like pop culture in general. It is largely throw-away material. But, you generally enjoy it while it lasts. And, you usually will find one or two nuggets to carry with you for a long time.

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.

Susie Delaney

This was a quick read and appealed to my music nerd side. Minus one star for being a typical douchey boyfriend type.


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!


** 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.

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.

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