"Grab sugar wherever it falls," coaxed Kristin Hersh to a mulish Vic Chesnutt, hurling cinnamon Jolly Ranchers at him while parked at an Alabama truck stop. "That is prob'ly the gayest thing you ever said," he quipped. The Georgia musicians, decade-long tour cohorts, shared a bond as silly and sarcastic as it was deep. A wheelchair-bound quadriplegic following a 1983 car wreck, Chesnutt played guitar with the remaining use of his two fingers. His beautiful, startlingly somber songs ("messages from the ether, uncensored," describes Hersh) awed exceedingly; R.E.M. were VC stalwarts. Penned in the second person, Don't Suck, Don't Die arrives as a would-be letter and could-be eulogy to its writer's closest confidant. The former Throwing Muses singer doesn't deify her "asshole, angel, mutant," either – especially given the magnitude of her own severe depression ("Born wrong, like I was"). Through beautifully phrased, dark, honest prose, the Rat Girl author paints a poetic portrait of earnest struggle, friendship as significant savior, and learned empathy. (Kristin Hersh has canceled her TBF appearance due to a family illness.)
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