Statesman Select for October 2015: DON’T SUCK, DON’T DIE


BookPeople is proud to partner with the Austin American-Statesman for our monthly Statesman Selects program. Each month, BookPeople will highlight the Statesman’s top recommended read for Austin. We’re excited to announce October’s pick is Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt by Kristin Hersh. Come down to the store Thursday, October 15th at 7pm when Hersh will appear in conversation with the Statesman‘s Joe Gross about the book here at BookPeople. Pick up a copy of the Statesman on Sunday, October 11th to read their review of Don’t Suck, Don’t Die, then join us here October 15th!

Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt
by Kristin Hersh


If you haven’t been following us on social media, you’re probably unaware of our excitement, adoration, and possible obsession with Kristin Hersh and her new memoir, Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt. It’s a story of friendship between two deeply creative and mutually troubled musicians, a story that will leave you contemplating the relationship between creativity and mental illness, and grieving a tremendous loss you likely never knew existed.

But just who was Vic Chesnutt? A legend with a cult following. A critically-acclaimed guitarist and quadriplegic. An unsettling figure, who lived so tragic, so unjust, yet rendered so beautiful by Hersh. 

“I bent over backwards to misbehave.

It’s a holy wonder I just didn’t flip on over into an early grave.”

-From Chestnut’s 1993 album, Dodge

Drawing on her long friendship and musical relationship with Chesnutt, Hersh has penned a moving memoir that reaches across genres. Describing their mutual love of songwriting and difficulties grappling with various mental health issues, she’s written the definitive account of a musician others found difficult to understand, let alone be with.

What the critics have to say: 

“…it’s essentially a long valedictory letter from Hersh to Chesnutt. It’s a technique that could seem forced in the hands of a less experienced writer, but Hersh, whose previous memoir Rat Girl won critical acclaim, handles it flawlessly. The effect is extraordinarily powerful — it gives Hersh a way to express both the love and the anger that Chesnutt inspired in her.” –NPR

What our booksellers have to say: 

In raw, poetic prose, Hersh chronicles their friendship, their performances together, and the sometimes difficult, always irresistible character of Vic Chesnutt. I didn’t know a thing about Hersh or Chesnutt before reading this book, but I was immediately enthralled by the front row seat I had to their unique, complicated relationship (and now that I’m listening, I hear them both everywhere). Not everyone is easy to love, but sometimes, the love is all the stronger for the challenge.

— Julie W.

“I have not been so moved by a piece of art, any art, in years. Even with the inevitable tragic ending, Hersh keeps you hanging on with her delicate and sublime prose. You know you are circling a vortex but the water is so perfect you don’t care. This story aches, laughs, stuns, and pulls you into it like a siren song. You will put it down and want more of both Chesnutt and Hersh, and feel all the more brokenhearted at the enormity of the loss.”

— Bosco

“ is true that we’ve stumbled on a love letter we perhaps were never meant to see, as Hersh writes directly to Chesnutt’s ghost, a man who was somehow a ghost even when he was alive. Or alive in a different way than most. This book is a strange time capsule, one that captures the small, humid details of life shared with Chesnutt, and somehow in so doing captures the fullness of the man himself.”

— Emily


Songwriter, guitarist and singer, Kristin Hersh has released over 20 records solo, with Throwing Muses and 50FOOTWAVE. She’s also the author of an acclaimed memoir — based on her teenage diary — about a particularly eventful year, titled Rat Girl in the USA (published by Penguin), and titled Paradoxical Undressing in the UK (published by Atlantic Books).


Vic Chesnutt was a singer-songwriter from Athens, Georgia. Before his death in 2009 at the age if 45, he released 17 albums, and his songs have been covered by the likes of Madonna, Smashing Pumpkins, and R.E.M.

The following articles were published soon after Chesnutt’s death:

Afterword: Vic Chesnutt -Pichtfork

“Despite his gregarious recording habits, Chesnutt often came across as a fucking MONSTER, if only toward himself. Both as author and character, he is inescapably the subject of his songs, and his is the one perspective he could never escape. Countering dark subjects with darker humor, his chagrined albums comprise an autobiography in song, recounting a storied life, documenting strained relationships, and evoking perilous despair”

Vic Chesnutt, Singer and Songwriter, Dies at 45 -New York Times

“Mr. Chesnutt had a cracked, small voice but sang with disarming candor about a struggle for peace in a life filled with pain.”

We hope you can join us here at BookPeople to welcome Kristin Hersh Thursday, October 15th at 7pm!

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