Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman

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Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: If you're interested in low brow culture, enjoy arch, self-aware writing that is very funny, tinged with camp and that occasionally looks up from its navel to say something profound enough for you to wish you'd thought of it first, then you will like Killing Yourself To Live. The ladeez may have to overlook the underlying adolescent sexism though.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: January 2006
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 978-0571223978

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Theoretically, Killing Yourself To Live is about a pilgrimage undertaken by rock critic Chuck Klosterman across 6,500 miles as he visits the most famous rock and roll death sites in the United States. What we actually get is a road trip diary from an obsessive, anal over-analyser and contemporary commentator that is mostly about the three women in his life who are all, for one reason or another, ultimately unattainable.

It's very funny. Klosterman has some ludicrous and almost slap stick adventures, including snorting cocaine at midnight in a cemetery and avoiding cottonmouth snakes at the site of a plane crash. In the same way that Alan Bennett is very, very English, Klosterman is very, very American. Both men are clearly operating on intellectual levels soaring way above the rest of us, but both have a lot to say on popular culture with the keen observation of the deliberately detached. Killing Yourself To Live is a series of hilarious interludes, sometimes about the people Klosterman meets, but mostly about Klosterman himself, punctuated with some truly insightful commentary on low brow American culture and the meaning of celebrity. It's a great read.

So, what's not to like? Well, Klosterman takes self-aware navel-gazing to new heights, or new depths, depending on how you look at it. On page 216 of Killing Yourself To Live, in the fifth line of the third paragraph - if you count the second paragraph, which is intended to be a witty one-liner and actually isn't that witty at all, but is, technically, a paragraph - and while he is making a dog's dinner of analysing all the women he has ever loved in terms of the rock band, Kiss (and let's face it, girls, which of you wants to be analysed in terms of Gene Simmons? Even the most disastrous of us can do our slap better than that), Klosterman says, "Sadly, this is my savant-like skill." Abandoning my (bad) pastiche of the Klosterman style, I'll just say that I don't think Klosterman is sad about having a "savant-like skill" at all. I think he rather likes the idea. Don't you find that just a wee bit creepy? I do.

There is also an underlying attitude of adolescent sexism. I can't quite make up my mind whether Klosterman would be pleased or devastated to hear me saying this, but I don't suppose it'll make much difference to his popularity either way. It's the same immature sexism underlying every word Jack Kerouac ever wrote, and even the girls still think he's great.

My right-on whinging aside, Killing Yourself To Live is a highly entertaining book. Klosterman is very funny and he says an awful lot of very funny things. He also has an unerring knack for analysing low-brow culture in a way that doesn't try to elevate it from what it is, but does take valuable account of the effect it has on an awful lot of people. I enjoyed it. Lots. Even page 216.

Thanks to the publisher, Faber and Faber, for sending the book.

Another self-aware, obsessive road trip is written about by Christopher Ross in Mishima's Sword.

Buy Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman at

Buy Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman at


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Magda said:

I sometimes think 99% of stuff even vaugely connected to pop culture is, by default almost, adolescently sexist (i.e. sexually immature). That includes also efforts of female performers.