I think Chuck Klosterman is one of the more entertaining rock critics-slash-essayists today. He's a combination slacker and philosopher, reminiscent a bit of Nick Hornby, Dave Eggers and Lester Bangs. He's one of the few critics with whom I can completely disagree (he loves KISS, which I simply cannot fathom), yet I'll read every word he writes.
Chuck's latest, Killing Yourself To Live: 85% of a True Story, is his most honest, heartfelt book yet, a memoir and road trip that isn't really what it starts out seeming to be at all. Chuck is assigned by a "Spin" editor to do an "epic story" that they decide will be a massive road trip across the U.S. to visit places where famous rock stars have died, from Sid Vicious to Kurt Cobain to Buddy Holly. Great idea for a book, right? Seems right up Klosterman's alley, with his yen for pop culture and knack for making the trivial seem life changing. "I want to find out why plane crashes and drug overdoses and shotgun suicides turn long-haired guitar players into messianic prophets," he writes.
Yet that isn't quite this book, it turns out. Sure, he visits the Chelsea Hotel where Nancy of Sid and Nancy died, the field in Mississippi where half of Lynyrd Skynyrd bought it in a plane crash, the club fire where a Great White concert turned deadly, a Seattle garden where Kurt Cobain ate a shotgun, and these trips are all rendered in energetic, anecdotal and detailed prose. But a funny thing happened along the way — Chuck Klosterman started thinking about his love life, and three women he's caught twixt and tween, each different and each unforgettable for him.
The road trip serves as a kind of purgative as Chuck waxes eloquent about his life — he's coming up on the gap, the gap between slacker 20-something-hood and what we call "real life," when things suddenly get a lot less informal and less surprising. I went through that gap myself about 7-8 years ago and know where he's coming from. "This kind of life — a life of going to joyless keg parties and having intense temporary acquaintances and spending most of one's time in basements and tiny apartments and crappy rented houses with five bedrooms — was once my life completely," he writes. Where did it go?