A fascinating gift for any Nirvana fan (and really, who isnít at least mildly one?) would be Journals [Riverhead Books/Penguin Putnam], the recently released private notebooks by Kurt Cobain. The book is entirely Cobain, in his own handwriting, with elaborate drawings and goofy panel cartoons, scrapbook clippings, to-do lists, guitar tabs, drafts of letters he would eventually send, and letters he never sent.
Itís no surprise that itís a sad journey through Journals, and the reader learns that even his first sexual experience was wrought with pain, fear and humiliation, ultimately leading to a botched suicide where he laid himself down on train tracks, only to have the train run by on the other set of tracks beside him. A lot of Cobainís journals read like pages from J.D. Salingerís literary classic, The Catcher in the Rye, right down to his ďI hated everyone for they were so phonyĒ [page 27].
Itís a tour through his life and the step-by-step development of a depressive addict and rock star. Heís exasperated over his label, SubPopís, favoritism of the other big Seattle band, Mudhoney. Heís sick to death of being sick with stomach troubles no drugs can cure (but heroin and meth did seem to take the edge off). His great aspiration beyond music is to start up a janitorial service with Chris. Some of his quotes are funny, such as this contemplation on how he fit into music:
It seems like there are only two options for songwriters personalities either theyíre sad, tragic visionaries like Morrisey or Michael Stipe or Robert Smith or thereís the goofy, nutty white boy, Hey letís party and forget everything people. Like Van Halen or all that other heavy metal crap. I mean I like to be passionate and sincere, but I also like to have fun and act like a dork. Geeks unite.
Other quotes are downright painful to read:
I havenít masturbated in months because Iíve lost my imagination. I close my eyes and I see my father, little girls, german shepherds & TV news commentators, but no voluptuous, pouty-lipped naked-female sex kittens, wincing in ecstasy from the illusory positions Iíve conjured up in my mind. No, when I close my eyes I see lizards & flipper babies. The ones who were born deformed because their mothers took bad birth control pills.
Iím seriously afraid to touch myself.
On another page:
Öthe Beatles but oh lord never Paul pleeease! Is it egotistical to talk about myself like this? I guess this song if for my father who is incapable of communicating at a level of affection in which I have always expected. [Beneath this entry it says, ďNordic Trac 1-800-382-9177Ē]
The magic of Journals isnít in the story. We all know how that ends up. The magic is more in the evidence that Kurt Cobain could have been one of our good friends. We had the hunch of that when we first fell in love with his music, of course, but now, hereís proof. His handwriting looks like anybody youíd know. He used Mead Spiral notebooks and watched HR Puffnstuff and Speed Racer. He listened to the Melvins and Leadbelly and the Stooges. He made crib sheets of street signs and lane use signals for driverís tests, he saved letters, his early band press releases and bios Ėand itís all there, each sheet copied in whole. Thereís no editing, no editor summing it all up for you. Youíre the judge. And it breaks your heart even more, now that you know him better.