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Don't Suck, Don't Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt (American Music) Hardcover – October 1, 2015
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"The book's great sadness is matched by the skill and vitality of Hersh's writing; it will make treasured and troubled reading for fans of Chesnutt and the author alike. " (Kirkus Reviews 2015-06-01)
"Don't Suck, Don't Die is not only one of the best books of the year, it's one of the most beautiful rock memoirs ever written. Hersh is as stunningly talented an author as she is a musician, and her portrayal of Chesnutt is perfectly done." (NPR 2015-09-28)
"A raw, poetic memoir . . . a last, wonderful example of Chesnutt at his most charismatically mischievous" (The Guardian 2015-10-15)
"Hersh’s language is vivid and conversational, as descriptive and elliptical as her own music." (Salon 2015-10-17)
"[Hersh’s] observations . . . always ring with a harsh lyrical truth . . . an eloquent, heartbreaking testament. Hersh’s language is vivid and conversational, as descriptive and elliptical as her own music." (Pitchfork 2015-10-28)
"In under 200 little pages, it paints a more honest, insightful picture of the late singer-songwriter than any biography could . . . Beautifully, poetically told." (MOJO 2015-11-01)
"A powerful and moving insight . . . A book that will move anyone who’s loved and lost, regardless of whether they’re a fan of the author of Chesnutt." (R2 2015-10-01)
"An intimate, complicated portrait of the artist as road warrior . . . a beautiful but often dark, heartbreaking read." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution 2015-09-30)
"An ode, an elegy and an examination of the physics of friendship." (WABE 90.1 Atlanta 2015-09-28)
"Through beautifully phrased, dark, honest prose, [Hersh] paints a poetic portrait of earnest struggle, friendship as significant savior, and learned empathy." (The Austin Chronicle 2015-10-16)
About the Author
Kristin Hersh is a founding member of the bands Throwing Muses and 50 Foot Wave. Her memoir Rat Girl was widely praised by publications from the New York Times to Rolling Stone, which named it one of the top ten best rock memoirs ever written.
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Late in the narrative, Hersh declares: “In my opinion, you were talking s*** when you said you were an atheist.” The line shocked me; but on reflection it is, perhaps, the key line in the book. Certainly, it goes a long way to explaining the tension that runs throughout the book between the author and her subject (who is always addressed as you and is, indeed, the only you) – from the opening scene when she tries to force Jolly Ranchers on him because he needs “sweetness” (i.e. spirituality) in his life to her later difficulty in comprehending the apparently terminal breakdown of his relationship with his wife. (Tina, his wife, is presented by Hersh as an angelic, Marian presence).
The question that hovers here is an old one: how well can any individual really know another? Hersh calls Chesnutt her best friend while wondering openly whether she knew him at all. It is this tension together with her facility with words that enables Hersh to create a rounded, unflinching portrait of the man; the vignettes of their time together allow for the reader’s intelligence and imagination to explore the spaces between the lines.
Hersh, herself a fiercely intelligent artist with a great and unique musical talent, is keenly perceptive and generous in her appreciation of Chesnutt, whose style and approach to songwriting differs starkly from hers, but who is also a uniquely gifted songwriter and charismatic performer. The fourth character in this memoir is Hersh’s husband, Billy. The fleeting and sometimes elliptical references to their relationship provide context for the author’s friendship with Chesnutt and his wife, but they are also poignant and ultimately deeply moving in themselves. They provide an additional layer of nuance and meaning to the text.
The book turned me on to the music of Vic Chesnutt, and for that alone it is worth 5 stars. His best songs are as good as it gets in popular music: funny, biting, moving and true lyrics delivered with inimitable phrasing, and melodies that keep whirling around your mind long after they’re done and you’ve returned to the everyday. Both this book and Chesnutt’s music (and Hersh’s music for that matter) are true to life, and true to the life.
If you are not familiar with Vic's music, but you are a biography junky, I do recommend you listen to him first.
This book will break your heart into a millions pieces over and over again and will leave you with the most beautiful and memorable tribute a friend could pay to another...
Let me dry my eyes... I will come back.