Well, now I’m obsessed. To be totally objective, I was hovering on the obsession line for a while. I love Nirvana, and Kurt Cobain specifically, so when I picked up Heavier Than Heaven, I thought I’d just get a better understanding of the subject.
Not so easy. This book reads like a novel. It sucks you in, chomps down on your guts with shark jaws, shakes you around, and then suddenly releases you into the calm black depths of total obsession.
This portrait of Kurt Cobain is not objective and does not seem to be attempting to be objective. But I found the point of view agreeable; it seemed to reinforce my idea of Cobain’s internal workings. There were one or two parts where I could practically hear Courtney Love screaming her editorial suggestions in the background. These parts were just slightly too favorable to her. For instance, when Courtney Love told Vogue that she did heroin while she was pregnant. When Frances was born, she was taken away from her parents for several long weeks. There is a quote about the anti-drug culture that cracked me up because it was so absurd: that there was a “mistaken impression” that one could not be a heroin addict and a good parent. No, sorry, Courtney, it isn’t a mistaken impression. If you’re doing heroin while pregnant, you’re by definition not a fit parent.
In any case, I was very happy when they got Frances back; the love both parents had for the child was evident. The loving commitment and the perfect fit between Kurt and Courtney also surprised me – in many ways they reminded me of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes because they borrowed each other’s lines, sang each other’s songs, and seemed to be deeply compatible. The artistic symbiotic relationship was the hallmark of the Plath-Hughes union. It was a pleasure to read about another similar relationship.
The author takes a few liberties at the very last of the book; he could not possibly know Cobain’s tortured thoughts while he pondered while shooting up and then holding the gun to his mouth. But man, when he did pull the trigger, the words on the page scorched me to the bone, and I wept. I wept for the sweet boy Cobain was, the brilliant artist, the husband and father. I wept because it was a shame to lose it all.
And I wept because, like Plath, I believe that it was inevitable. A date with destiny.
This was a moving, illuminating book. Anyone who loves stories about complex, complicated artists will appreciate it. Those who already like Cobain will be seduced — then obsessed.