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85% of a True Story

by Chuck Klosterman

Pub Date: July 19th, 2005
ISBN: 0-7432-6445-2
Publisher: Scribner

A transcontinental road trip mostly along the byways and back roads of Spin magazine writer Klosterman’s own head, resulting in an enjoyable, polyphonic interior monologue.

Early on, you get the warning: this will have all the earmarks of a “reliance on self-indulgent, postmodern self-awareness” as Klosterman (Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, 2003, etc.) fields an assignment to visit the death sites of a number of rock ’n’ rollers, an odyssey that could yield some insight as to why death equals credibility and bestows messianic qualities in the world of rock, or why the greatest career move any musician can make is to stop breathing. And Klosterman does get around to taking a stab at the question—it says more about the fans than the artists—but he is chiefly interested in himself (though, happily, not in love with himself), engaging in extended riffs on his likes and dislikes in music and, most captivatingly, on the pathos of his love life (chimes of High Fidelity here, but readers will know that Klosterman has actually felt the sting, again and again). His brash honesty—“your entire existence as a rock critic is built around the process of reviewing your mail”—is shown both by an easeful descriptive talent as he drives from town to town, seeking the last place Duane Allman and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kurt Cobain and Holly-Valens-Bopper saw the light of day, and by slices of dark humor (as when his sister accidentally hit a cow with her car “and the old sleepy-eyed heifer went down like Frazier getting tagged by Foreman”). He can also be exasperatingly logorrheic, but road-trippers are on a ramble, after all.

Entertaining in a spontaneous, distracting way. When it ends, though, and Klosterman slams shut the door to his head, most of what went before melts into air.