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.