Death Trip

Chuck Klosterman's latest book tracks his tour of rock star death sites

Killing Yourself to Live features Spin's Chuck Klosterman visiting rock-star death sites, which is little more than a hook. The book is really about pop culture and girl trouble, both of which Chuck obsesses about during the 6,557-mile drive. His women (Quincy, Lenore, and Diane) seem nearly interchangeable; the pop-culture references (the Olive Garden, Kobe Bryant, Girl, Interrupted) are unavoidably ephemeral. Actually, the real point of the book is that Chuck, a farm boy, got big in NYC writing about music, and now he gets to write about whatever he wants.

This can be good and bad. Rock journalism does surface, usually in the form of little-known factoids about this dude or that. Chuck offers deadpan proof that Radiohead predicted 9/11, which is a fine exercise, and a nice bit comparing "Slow Ride" to "Free Ride," which I found myself skimming. There's the requisite dressing-down of Eric Clapton and his neck beard, a lot of Kiss discussion, and too much about Great White. He breezes through the death sites, kicking the dirt near famous plane crashes, wandering around Nancy Spungen's Chelsea Hotel, pondering Jeff Buckley's Mississippi River. There could be more about, say, Tommy Stinson, whose apartment he touches. We do learn that Lane Staley may have died from huffing paint, which would have made him a really good drug addict.

Along the road, Chuck sinks into boozy drama, getting smitten by a waitress because she reads Kafka and García Márquez (two writers who, it should be pointed out, appear on your average college syllabus), and wooing a drunk, leonine woman who absconds to a roof, which strikes him as singularly beautiful.

Perfecting the Slouch: Chuck Klosterman.
Christopher McLallen
Perfecting the Slouch: Chuck Klosterman.

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Kurt Cobain closes the book, and Chuck recalls the now-forgotten Nirvana versus Pearl Jam debate and Kurt's pre-death backlash (think hard), knocking out a little grade-A criticism: "His dying seemed to give total strangers a sense of integrity they never had wanted while he was alive."

 
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