06 November 2006

Getting over being the music kid in high school or my review of killing yourself to live

There are a great many things that sound profound in childhood and early adolescence that you realize are absolutely worthless as you grow. Well, I’m not entirely certain everyone see’s these as worthless but at some point you should for the betterment of your mental development. There comes a point when being able to argue the finer merits of Pink Floyd’s ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ seem like an embarrassingly futile if not endlessly childish. This point I believe happens when you get to the age where beer pong is no longer an acceptable athletic pursuit. Sadly not all of us reach a mental state where we are able to see Morrissey lyrics for just that and not some sort of transcendental act of depression caused by the weight of his genius. This seems to be the fate that has befallen Chuck Klosterman and his piece ‘Killing Yourself to Live”.

The novel itself is a rough take on a cross country trip he takes on while writing a piece for Spin Magazine in which he visits the locations where musicians have met their demise. The book is part ‘On the Road Again’ and part ‘Hi-Fidelity’ and sadly it is the worst parts of both. The work itself is basically an autobiography/confessional in which he unburdens his soul about past loves and childhood experiences.

The book careens recklessly between genres with the sort of deep identity crisis that normally befalls a schizophrenic. It’s not sure whether to be a road trip novel, music criticism, passenger seat psychology text or autobiography. Unfortunately it is all and none at the same time. Klosterman speaks with the sort of cocky self assurance of a high school newspaper editor who has just discovered ‘The Velvet Underground’ and is dying to show off how much more advanced he is for knowing them than anyone else he knows. One such painful passage is where he ambles on for a few pages describing in agonizing detail how Radiohead predicted the attacks of September 11th with their album ‘Kid A’. He pores over each track and relates them to a time during the attacks. It is the sort of sentiment that one has when trying to pick up a girl in college by explaining the note for note nuances of ‘The Birth of The Cool’ but not the fodder of journalists past the age of 25.

The hardest part of the novel is that you genuinely feel bad for Klosterman who even though he is generally a feckless narcissist of the worst and most exploitive kind, you know he can do better than this. You get the feeling the shadow of Nick Hornby looms large over him and he can’t get out from under it. He even tries to cop his writing style and cadence to lesser degrees of success, which is unfortunate because there are times when he truly shines on his own. Sadly it all feels like you are reading someone who used to be a great writer in college but never gained the maturity and authenticity to develop into a great writer in adult life. The sad part is I fear he will never realize that this is the case and keep writing for high school students with punk rock pins on their used leather jackets.

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