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


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.


** 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.


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!


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.


I love how full of shit this guy is.For all of the people who hated this book because they thought Klosterman has 'terrible taste in music' I think they might have skimmed over this one part:So many of the rock concerts I've attended have been filled with people who were there only to be there, who just wanted to be seen by other people who were there only to be there... ... Half the people who attend concerts only go so that they can tell other people that (a) certain shows were amazing, and (b) other shows sucked.I couldn't put this down and I even tried to draw it out so that it lasted longer but it was still a pretty lame book, if that makes any sense. I liked some of the ideas and he's certainly quotable. Still, it mostly felt like he was dragging me behind him on this trip. At one point I even forgot he was on a trip, which bummed me out. I get so excited about these people who travel across the country and in the end they disappoint me. What this book really got me thinking about wasn't all the dysfunctional relationships I've had or have had the potential to have (which is all he wanted to talk about) but really that I just want to travel across the country and see some stuff. So, thanks for that Chuck. Another quote for the 'road' (haw)Art and love are the same thing: it's that process of seeing yourself in things that are not you. It's understanding the unreasonable.

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.


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.


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.


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.

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

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

Anna Bond

Once again, Chuck Klosterman reveals himself to be a boring, self-centered paragon of bad taste with horrible ideas about the relations between the sexes. Why do I keep reading him? The only really interesting chapter revolves around the Great White concert fire, revealing the poignancy of the men who lost friends and brothers at the show. I just wish that he would go as far as he thinks he's going into genuine critique of cultural elitism and how callously it allows us to treat each other. Many considered the Great White concert tragedy a joke because the band itself are seen as only beloved by "white trash" or "rednecks" - not the culturally aware - even subhuman. (A crowd-crushing fatality at a Smashing Pumpins concert a few years ago was treated with shocking cruelty by some of my fellows in the music industry for the same reason.) Klosterman hints at condemning this attitude but, perhaps realizing the extent his readership belong to the callous "elite" group, shies away.Classic Klosterman sexism abounds here as well. Do most guys actually think that putting women on a pedestal of otherness accomplishes anything positive? So tiresome.Also classic Klosterman: boring-ass prose. His popularity makes me sad.

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.

Susie Delaney

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

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