Review: Please Kill Me by Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain

Rating: 5/5

Funny story. I first heard about Please Kill Me in an episode of Gilmore Girls called “Teach Me Tonight.” In the episode Jess recommends the book to Rory as a way to distract her from the studying they’re supposed to be doing. As a die hard GG fan, I take the book recommendations on this show seriously. So when I found a copy of the book at Barnes & Noble, I bought it immediately.51G3XZDQ5AL

I devoured Please Kill Me by the beach over winter break. Every so often my concentration would break away from its pages, and, regaining awareness of where I was, I’d marvel at how different vibes of the book were from my surroundings.

As its subtitle states Please Kill Me offers an “uncensored oral history of punk,” emphasis on uncensored. The amount of honesty in the book is baffling. People proudly admit  to all forms of depravity and give salacious testimonies about their friends and enemies alike. At its best, the book makes you feel like you’re backstage, privy to all the gossip and drama of the sex, drugs, and rock and roll lifestyle.

Please Kill Me is a wild ride and gloriously engrossing with its fair share of WTF moments. Yet, for all the wilding it contains, Please Kill Me is also highly informative, especially for punk newbies like me. In its own way it argues points and provokes revelations in its readers not the least of which is that punk actually began in New York, not London like many would believe.

One potential obstacle for the punk newbie is the format of the book, whose narrative is conveyed, not through any omnipotent narrator, but a series of curated quotes and interview clippings from key participants of the punk scene, including one of the book’s authors/editors, Legs McNeil. Because the voice switches regularly, the first few chapters felt a bit uneven. Once I got accustomed to it, however, the book’s format became one of its greatest strengths. Unmediated by 3rd person narration, each voice speaks for itself. With their colorful vocabularies and senses of humor, the idiosyncratic vernaculars of the punk world add texture to the deceptively simple question What is punk rock? 

Until I read Please Kill Me, I considered punk to be just another music genre. Yet, punk was and continues to be a movement with its own values, politics, and ways of understanding the world. While Please Kill Me leaves off in the early  90s, punk has since spawned sub-sub genres like hardcore and Riot Grrl. If punk is a religion, Please Kill Me is its Bible, the central story of its birth, life, and legacy.

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