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Book Review

‘Don’t Suck, Don’t Die’

11/25/2015

“Don’t Suck, Don’t Die” is a beautiful, haunting elegy to a lost friend and fellow musician. Kristen Hersh, frontrunner for the alternative rock band The Throwing Muses and author of the critically acclaimed memoir, “Rat Girl,” delivers a stunning, moving portrait of her time with indie singer/songwriter Vic Chesnutt.

By Kristen Hersh University of Texas Press Oct. 1, 2015 $22.95 198 pp

By Kristen Hersh
University of Texas Press
Oct. 1, 2015
$22.95
198 pp

Relegated to a wheelchair after a car accident when he was 18 left him partially paralyzed, Chesnutt recorded his first record seven years later. Having limited use of his hands, Chesnutt could only play simple chords on his guitar, yet he went on to record 17 well-lauded albums. He was ranked on a 2006 National Public Radio (NPR) list in the top five of the 10 best living songwriters, alongside Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, and his songs have been covered by the likes of REM, The Smashing Pumpkins and Madonna. His music — spare and dark — can be angry, funny or despairing and often explore his own mortality. Wracked with depression, he attempted suicide several times, and he died of an overdose on Christmas day in 2009 at the age of 45.

Hersh toured with Chesnutt for almost 10 years since the 1990s, and they developed a deep friendship. Their songwriting, similar sensibilities and mutual battles with mental health brought them to a rare closeness. With flawless prose, Hersh powerfully describes the moments of their friendship. A heartbreaking portrait seared by pain and anger and infused with love and honor, this is an ode by a talented author and musician essential for any fan of Chesnutt, Hersh or skillful, strong writing in general. CV

Fay Jones was born with a love of literature, which was finely shored up throughout her early years by her parents and a beloved children’s librarian who wore the thickest glasses ever manufactured..

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