by Kurt Cobain
The Price of Fame
A review by Adrienne Miller
Eighty percent of this book made me feel as if I were examining someone's dirty underwear, or perhaps watching someone in the apartment across the way do something unspeakable. Maybe this is reason enough for Kurt Cobain's journal entries and letters to have been published at all: They're a harrowing warning to all young artists to protect their talent at whatever cost.
Written in the erratic hand of a brilliant, damaged infant, these diary entries, letters, set lists, scribblings, and doodlings chart Kurt Cobain's fall from a bright, self-aware, generous, free-thinking, vulnerable, passionate semi-genius to a braying, tedious, paranoid, self-involved, self-pitying, drug-addicted wreck. Pre-fame (and this was definitely his life's essential demarcation: pre-fame and post-), he loved many things: punk rock, girls with weird eyes, sleep, poetry, "making fun of musicians whom I feel plagerise or offend music as art by exploiting their embarrassingly pathetic versions of their work." Post-fame, there was only something like hate. Nevermind made Cobain into a sputtering rage-machine whose main thought, if it even can officially be considered a "thought," was his unfair treatment in magazines...and could there possibly be a more boring topic than that?
One thing is clear from these journal entries/letters: Nobody achieves Cobain-level fame unless he wants it. Even the earliest entries, dating from 1988, are stunning in their megalomania and predestination, as if written with full awareness that they'd later be read as the early work of a very famous man. It's debatable how much of a publishing "event" these journals are Charles Cross had unfettered access to them in his 2001 Cobain biography Heavier Than Heaven but it is worth reexamining how completely fame corrupted, then destroyed, Kurt Cobain. Which seems to have been exactly what he knew would happen all along.
Adrienne Miller is the literary editor of Esquire.
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