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KURT COBAIN JOURNALS (article first published : 2004-01-13)

I have two immediate responses after reading the Kurt Cobain Journals. The first is that an insider view and word-for-word truth is hard to deny. The second is that making money out of truth, especially in the event of a tragedy, gives me a slightly jaundiced view on the agenda of the publication.

To elaborate further on my first response, Kurt Cobain was a genius of sorts. He was tormented by himself, society and commercialism. It is obvious after reading his journals that his sole redemption lay in music. Even the cover of the book carries a scribbled note that says, “If you read you’ll judge”. This, for me, goes without saying that this publication is not open for inspection. It is a self-declared statement of a man who was fully aware of the consequences of someone having an insider view.

By reading the journals you’ll discover a Kurt Cobain who was angry, afraid and far beyond the grasps of the music industry. It disturbs and contravenes what knowledge one has of Kurt Cobain: that he was not so much a victim of society than he was of himself. Personally I would have been content with accepting Kurt Cobain as a musical legend and a mystery …something that is not supposed to be tapped into.

My second response goes further in that this mystery has now been marketed, exploited in a sense. It has lost its magic and become a mere conversation piece. I would have preferred (at least) a limited edition publication, one in which the truly over-zealous followers of Kurt Cobain would have snapped up first. Those who would have the respect and understanding to be able to ‘read it and weep’. But media, rights and commercialism are all part of the entertainment industry. No matter how much Kurt Cobain may have felt that he was free of its talons, it had a hold on him whilst he was alive, and it still does. He is open to judgment, which is ironic because his tragic death should have been some kind of signal that he didn’t want to be judged. As the prospect of fame draws nearer in the journal, his unease and anxiety grow. This leaves the reader feeling a little guilty at the end, as if they were a fly on the wall that could do nothing about the situation at hand.

In the first few pages of Kurt Cobain’s journal we read, “Don’t read my diary when I’m gone.” What follows are his expectation that someone eventually will. This is truly a collector’s item, one that demands respect and neutrality from the reader.

Kurt Cobain Journals is published by Penguin Books and retails at R170. - Ruby Bernard




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