That’s the question that Spin editor Sia Michel used to convince Chuck Klosterman to embark on an epic road trip across America to visit the places where musicians met their demise.
Killing Yourself to Live started out as a feature article for Spin, but ended up book-length when Klosterman decided to pack the story full of his musing on past lovers, turning this travelogue into a memoir. This article/book was supposed to follow a standard script. At the end of his journey, his coworker, Lucy asks him some questions.
Are you going to be able to write a compelling story that will dissect the perverse yet undeniable relationship between celebrity and mortality? Will the narrative illustrate how society glamorizes dying in order to perpetuate the hope that death validates life? Will you be able to prove that living is dying, and that we’re all slowly dying through every moment of life? (233)
That’s not the story Klosterman came up with, however. In the end he realized that “love and death and rock ‘n’ roll are the same experience” (234).
This memoir is painfully narcissistic (not to mention exploitative of his relationships), but his brutal honesty makes for compelling reading. Klosterman doesn’t seem to care what the reader will think of him or his moral choices. Add to this his encyclopedic knowledge of rock and roll culture and you get Killing Yourself to Live: a window into the mind of one of our generation’s best cultural critics.
—Chuck Klosterman, Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story (New York: Scribner, 2005).