781: Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman

by Gerard

781.660973. Klosterman, Chuck. Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story. New York: Scribner, 2005. 235 pp. ISBN 0-7432-6445-2.

Dewey Construction:

  • 700: Fine Arts
  • 780: Music
  • 781: General principles and forms of music
  • 781.6: Traditions of music
  • 781.66: Rock ‘n’ roll
  • +0973: United States

Armed with 600 CDs, Chuck Klosterman is sent on a road-trip across the United States to visit the places of rock mortality—the buildings, fields, and memorial sites where members of the rock ‘n’ roll community met their untimely end.

He visits the remains of the Great White Station fire in Rhode Island.

He trudges through the black of night to find the site of the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash.

He checks into the hotel where Sid Vicious supposedly killed his girlfriend Nancy.

While there are too many good snippets to quote but I will tell you that Klosterman discusses the sublime nature of Cracker Barrel, the complicated phone trees involved in death notification, the life-saving properties of ice cubes, the simple joys of running in the backwoods of North Carolina, the theory that not playing bass guitar well is the same as actually playing bass guitar well, and the reasons that Led Zeppelin is always in the top three of rock bands of all time.

As with any single-person road-trip saga, the mood becomes introspective very quickly—and rightly so. If you were to go on a three week road-trip by yourself and not do some serious introspection, I would become worried about you. Along the way, he correlates every girl he’s ever loved to a past, current, or touring member of KISS (which works better if you know everyone in KISS). He encounters a waitress with way too much interest in Kafka and has an imaginary conversation with three ex-girlfriends (at the same time).

It’s a fun book and reads very quickly. Many people complain about its lack of focus or true philosophical value, but it’s still a pleasant travelogue and a witty commentary on music and rock fandom. You could probably get through Klosterman’s entire oeuvre (two books, three essay collections, and two novels) in two or three days. And when this project is over, I may just do that.