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85% of a True Story

A-KillingYourselftoLiveIn 2003, Klosterman drove cross-country in a rented Ford Taurus and visited all the tragic scenes of rock ’n’ roll for Spin magazine. This extended essay details Klosterman’s encounters with celebrity death—from the Rhode Island nightclub that burned down and the New York hotel where Sid Vicious may have killed Nancy Spungen to the Iowa field where Buddy Holly’s plane crashed. But, even when Klosterman is alone, he is not really alone. Throughout his journey, he starts imaginary conversations with three love interests (each does, after all, correspond to a Kiss band member). It’s hard to keep other thoughts out: what Led Zeppelin represents to teenagers and how Radiohead’s Kid A predicted the 9/11 attacks, for starters. But don’t let the main point elude you: dying is the best move a rock star can make. Ever.
Scribner. 256 pages. $23. ISBN: 0743264452

Hartford Courant 3.5 of 5 Stars
"In typical Klosterman fashion, he veers off on tangents in the book that usually are at least as rewarding as the main narrative but have little to do with rock-star casualties. . . . [W]hile you wouldn’t want to date him . . . you’ll definitely want to read him." Eric R. Danton

San Antonio Exp-News 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Pretty morbid stuff, and Klosterman’s insights aren’t particularly revelatory. . . . Fortunately, [his] musings are pretty darn funny and well-articulated." Michael Knoop

San Diego Union-Tribune 3 of 5 Stars
"His cleverness at working his own life dramas and traumas into pop-cultural discussions can fairly be described as devilish, both in the raffish, what-won’t-he-say? sense and the satanic, please-make-him-stop sense. . . . It’s all as self-indulgent as the drum solo on ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,’ yet it’s somehow a lot of fun." James Hebert

South FL Sun-Sentinel 3 of 5 Stars
"Killing Yourself to Live . . . is exploitive. And narcissistic. And a bit desperate. . . . And yet despite, or perhaps because of, all this, if you’re a heterosexual woman between the ages of 25 and 35 it is almost impossible not to madly adore him." Phoebe Flowers

Boston Globe 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Klosterman suffers from a most irritating generational affliction: a chronic inability to relate to life without a pop culture guidepost. . . . Spend too long in Killing Yourself To Live and you start to see a book that clearly should have stayed a magazine article." John Dicker

New York Times 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Dead rock stars are fascinating, but not nearly as fascinating as Chuck Klosterman thinks he is." Stephanie Zacharek

San Francisco Chronicle 2.5 of 5 Stars
"His description of the scene in West Warwick, R.I., where rocker guys hang out at the site of the Great White concert fire, do drugs and remember their fallen friends, is darkly funny and oddly touching. When Klosterman takes time to develop a thought, he can come up with insights that are, well, trenchant." Will Crain

Baltimore Sun 1.5 of 5 Stars
"It’s self-referential, gimmicky, and insincere." Stephen Kiehl

Critical Summary

Armed with 600 CDs in the back seat, a task of gargantuan rock ’n’ roll proportions, memories of three dysfunctional relationships (an ex, a sort of ex, and a true love), and a wild imagination, Klosterman’s in good shape for his cross-country death trip. A few critics compared his pop-culture musings to Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. Yet Klosterman (Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs 3 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2003) tries harder, indulges himself more, chats faster, uses more gimmicks, and doesn’t achieve Hornby’s heights. But Klosterman is nothing if not articulate about music, and his light, humorous touch often reveals meatier themes and revelatory insights about not only music but also life and death, particularly his own life. Reading Klosterman is like sitting in a bar with a good friend. It’s fun, but when it’s time to leave, it’s time to leave.