Nearly two decades after the death of Kurt Cobain, a friend and fellow musician not only continues to mourn his suicide, but also rages against the culture that he holds responsible.
These 52 “letters”— bursts of anger and sardonic humor, without paragraphing, but tempered by literary aspiration (and a little too much wordplay)—combine the subject matter of the Byrds’ “So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star” with the fury of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. As Erlandson explains in the introduction, he was the boyfriend and band mate of Courtney Love when they first met Cobain, who would become her husband and a friend of the author, one of the many profoundly affected by the Nirvana front man’s suicide. (Erlandson subsequently had an extended relationship with Drew Barrymore, though it’s hard to find her presence in these pages.) The author writes, “I began writing prose poem letters to Kurt as a way of exploring all I’d been through…My inner demons, personal means of self-sabotage, musings on death, suicide, masculine/feminine roles, food, sex, addiction,” etc. The results read like a journal for a creative-writing course, but the pain is real and powerful. The pieces often cast Cobain as a victim and Love as an occasional villain (the author’s involvement in their band Hole ended in acrimony and legal action), but its major indictment is of a celebrity culture in which “all beauty has poison under its skin, fangs beneath its gums, a bullet with your name on it, in the name of fortune and fame. If the art doesn’t kill you, the fame surely will.”
A catharsis for the writer and perhaps for the reader as well.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)