I'm not sure it's a good idea to follow my reading of Cormac McCarthy's novel with Chuck Klosterman's new book, Killing Yourself To Live. I guess in some ways it might be similar to a runner finishing his race but needing to cool down, or a diver having to enter a decompression chamber after a dive, or a heroin...you get the point. Anyway, I probably shouldn't, but I am because someone asked me for my impressions of the Klosterman book and I'm bound by a promise to write something for him. It's not that I think that Klosterman is a bad writer. In fact, I've often found his columns the only readable thing in Spin, and his new Esquire pieces have been highly entertaining. But to follow McCarthy? Tough duty.
Klosterman's book is the culmination of a project he did for Spin, an"epic" journey to visit and write about the death sites of rock musicians (and others). I'm just under halfway through the book and he's visited three: the Chelsea, the site of the Rhode Island nightclub tragedy, and the Macon, Georgia, intersection where Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident. For the most part the book is filled with various Klosterman observations about life and love and music, with the occasional mention of death.
I'll have more to say about this book at a later time (and place), but for now, here is a pretty interesting extract in which Klosterman discusses the importance of the word important when discussing rock critics:
...Right now, most rock journalism is just mild criticism with a Q&A attached; nobody learns anything (usually) and nothing new is created (ever). As a result, people who do this for a living tend to have a peculiar self-image; the relative worth of rock criticism is their core existential crisis. It's the semi-Zen quandary you're forced to consider any time the vortex of your vocation is (a) getting free albums, (b) playing these albums in an empty room, (c) thinking about what these albums remind you of, and (d) writing something that vaguely resembles an argument for why said albums is relevant or uncool. The former lead singer of Soul Coughing once disregarded the entire career of Village Voice rock critic Robert Christgau by saying, "Let's face facts here--what Robert Christgau does is write about his mail." And this is completely true; as a rock critic, you make a living reviewing your mail, and anybody who disagrees with that assertion is kidding themselves. Thus, the deeper question that drives (and/or depresses) rock critics is this: "How important is my job?" My uninformed assumption is that Robert Christgau would probably say his job is vitally (or at least marginally) important, and writers who consider themselves disciples of Christgau tend to see criticism almost like science; they worry a lot about taste. These are critics who honestly believe their personal opinion on Run-D.M.C.'s Raising Hell are no more or less true than the molecular structure of sulfur, or the square root of 144, or the atomic weight of lead. These are the people who worry about being right. And for most of my life, I have disagreed with those people (or at least thought them foolish). I have traditionally argued that rock criticism is almost always unimportant. But what I've grown to realize is that--whenever people argue over the "importance of rock criticism"--they are not arguing about rock criticism. They are arguing about the definition of the word important. That's the entire issue....