How to Kill a Rock Star :: A Book Review


How to Kill a Rock Star :: Tiffanie DeBartolo
A Book Review

It sounds silly, I know. But for me, the power of music rests in its ability to reach inside and touch the places where the deepest cuts lie.
Like a benevolent god, a good song will never let you down.
And sometimes, when you’re trying to find your way, one of those gods actually shows up and gives you directions.”

Some books are like old friends that now live far away, too far to visit with often, yet they are still with you, still a part of your life. Sometimes you have to call those friends up and have a long, cathartic conversation. Sometimes, too, you have to pick up one of those kind of books and re-acquaint with an “old friend“. For me, I felt like it was time for to reunite with Eliza, Paul and Loring, so when I was recovering from surgery, a few months back, I picked up my copy of How to Kill a Rock Star for a re-read. I am a voracious reader, but this re-read took time to get through, partially because I have been extraordinarily busy these last few months, mostly, though, it was because I did not expect to be so emotionally overturned by the revisited read.

Tiffanie DeBartolo’s books are among my favorites of all-time. Her characters, both in this book, and in God-Shaped Hole, hit me in a so real and so relatable and as How to Kill a Rock Star‘s Paul would say, so “god-damned” relevant to my life. Tiffanie’s characters feel like friends and lovers from my own life, and some of them feel like me. Her books, they effect me like music does, and that is a huge thing for me to say. Admittedly, it is usually Trixie and Grace, from God-Shaped Hole, that shake me up so completely, so when this book started to turn me inside out, leaving me an emotional wreck at the end of each “act“, I was honestly unprepared.

Eliza is an orphan. Her parents died in a plane crash, leaving Eliza terrified of all things airplane, and deeper still, leaves her terribly afraid of losing love, and loved ones. Eliza loves music, and writes about what she loves. She especially loves the fictional Doug Blackman, who reminds me of a mix of an older Bono, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. Doug’s music saved Eliza’s life in that way that only music can. Music is Eliza’s lifeline.

Eliza meets Doug in a hotel lobby and falls apart in a way that connects with Doug, who allows her to interview him, something he is not too keen on doing at this juncture of his career.

Paul is a musician the likes of Jeff Buckley, Elliott Smith, Kurt Cobain, Jimmy Gnecco and Joseph Arthur. He is not famous like those comparisons though, not yet, at least. He lives in a tiny apartment in a not-so-great area in New York City. Paul works at the Gap, keeps an audio diary, writes music that is magical and emotional and real and raw, but as of yet, mostly unheard. Paul is in a band with Eliza’s brother Michael, who suggests that Eliza take the empty room in Paul’s tiny apartment to help with the rent.

Eliza and Paul are soul mates in the least cheesiest and contrived way possible. Their DNA’s match up, so to speak, and it is an almost magical thing to watch unfold what happens between these two people. Music is at the core of their relationship, but it is more than that, deeper than that. That said, they are both flawed people who make some atrocious decisions which were hard for me to work my way through (Eliza especially).

There is Loring, too. Doug’s son who is also a musician who seems terribly underrated as an artist, but who is financial and “career” successful. Loring did not make much of an impact the first time I “met” him when I first read the book, but this time his character made a huge impression on me. I felt my heart breaking more and more for Loring, seeing things in him that I have missed in people who have been in my life.

Without spoiling a single thing, I will say that this story, this time around, had me shattered at times, but I am glad for it. I needed the soul kick and the emotional upside down roller coaster moment, and I needed to open my eyes to things about myself in a way that this book helped facilitate. I needed to see the Eliza in me, and face some pretty significant things that I have been avoiding for far too long.

That said, this book is not heavy-handed or horrifically tragic, I promise. It is music-filled, and real people filled, and has pages of wit, wonder and honesty that will have you wanting to keep the book around for future re-reads, as well. It is full of writings that you will want to highlight and quote, too. Eliza, Paul and Loring are the kinds of characters that stick around, and you will be glad you took the time to meet them.

Tiffanie continues to be one of my all-time favorite authors and I have to thank her for the gift of this story. My only wish is that she would write another book, maybe even with these characters, including Trixie, from God-Shaped Hole, who makes a blink and you might miss her appearance in How to Kill a Rock Star.

There are things we never tell anyone. We want to but we can’t. So we write them down. Or we paint them. Or we sing about them. It’s our only option. To remember. To attempt to discover the truth. Sometimes we do it to stay alive. These things, they live inside of us. They are the secrets we stash in our pockets and the weapons we carry like guns across our backs. And in the end we have to decide for ourselves when these things are worth fighting for, and when it’s time to throw in the towel. Sometimes a person has to die in order to live. Deep down, I know you know this. You just can’t seem to do anything about it. I guess it’s a sad fact of life that some of us move on and some of us inevitably stay behind. Only in this case I’m not sure which one of us is doing which. You were right about one thing though. It’s not fate. It’s a choice. And who knows, maybe we’ll meet again someday, somewhere up above all the noise. Until then, when you think of me, try and remember the good stuff. Try and remember the love.”


2 thoughts on “How to Kill a Rock Star :: A Book Review

  1. Before I read any of this are there any spoilers? I added this to my wishlist after you suggested it and I plan to read.

    You don’t have a VHS player anymore do you?

    1. No spoilers – promise!

      I do, yes, why?

      Your package hasn’t been sent yet as I’m waiting for my paycheck – but soon – promise! Sorry for the delay 🙁

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