Chronicling the creative process for Pop Zeus, the forthcoming Guided By Voices/Bob Pollard tribute comic- including sketches, concepts, finished art and whatever else is in my brain at the moment.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Killing Yourself To Live

Man, I didn't get enough sleep last night! In spite of my foggy head, I would really like to post my review for Chuck Klosterman's latest Killing Yourself To Live before I forget the details. Plus, it couldn't be a more appropriate subject with the passing of Syd Barrett last Friday. Read entirely during my flight back home for the Pearl Jam/Robert Pollard show, the book neatly paralleled the rock and roll journey I was embarking upon. And it's funny, I was totally unaware of that connection between Klosterman's travels and my own until well into the book.

Superficially, Killing Yourself To Live centers around a rental car roadtrip writing assignment for Spin magazine. Visiting not the grave sites of various dead rock stars, but their actual death sites (the location where Lynyrd Skynyrd's plane crashed, Sid Vicious murdered Nancy Spungen, Cobain blew his head off, etc.) Chuck hopes to grasp some sort of vague truth about how self-destruction, death, rock and fame are intertwined. It's a subject he touched on briefly in Fargo Rock City- a rant against the rising popularity of Nirvana in the wake of Kurt Cobain's suicide. But here, the idea is not only more fully explored but somehow along the way Klosterman's own personal life gets mixed up in it. And the journey becomes about much more than 'The Day The Music Died' for both reader and author.

A while back, I poured through Klosterman's first book Fargo Rock City and posted a review- partly just for shits and giggles and partly as another source of rawk inspiration for Pop Zeus. And I instantly found his writing both enjoyable and relatable. Granted, my youth on the suburban Jersey Shore was profoundly different from his North Dakota farm life. And I've never been a hair metal fan (Guns N' Roses was about as close as I got). But still, as a fellow pop-culturally saturated generic white Gen-Xer (haven't used that term to describe myself in a long time) born in the very same year, I felt a kinship with Klosterman's point of view. And that feeling is more pronounced after having read Killing Yourself To Live- a far weightier and more personal book than the previous.

Using the business trip as an covert excuse to reconnect with past and present girlfriends, the heart and soul of Killing Yourself To Live is revealed. Klosterman speaks very frankly and passionately about the women in his life- memorably likening them to the KISS lineup! It is in those candid glimpses that the book moves beyond the extended riffs on pop culture and into more meaningful territory. And the skillful counterbalance between those two elements is what fundamentally makes Klosterman's work so dynamic and gratifying.

Killing Yourself To Live is ultimately a very touching read- a thoughtful treatise on love and loss, what it means to be young and navigating through the ups and downs of life. It also begs the question of what it means to be a rock musician that didn't burn out and fade away, like Robert Pollard and the members of Guided By Voices. And for me, the book was a step far above and beyond the already quite wonderful Fargo Rock City. Consider me an official Chuck Klosterman fan- already picked up the one I missed "Sex, Drugs And Cocoa Puffs" and am totally looking forward to jumping in.

Take it easy everyone!


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