The perks of working in a book shop means you get to read so many books and comics without ever having to buy them. Often I get first dibs as soon as the box is open. And when I saw the eye catching cover, I was excited. But after reading it… well…this one was confusing to me.
There are very few novels graphic or otherwise that have given me such mixed feelings. I’ve been a fan of Nirvana since my angsty teen years. And at the center of my adoration was Kurt Cobain, who’s life and death has fascinated grunge fans for years, including myself. I’ve read books and watched documentaries about his life and death. I question everything and give into conspiracy. Was Kurt Cobain’s death really a suicide? Was it murder? And who did it? Was it Courtney Love or did she have someone do it for her? I can only imagine what bringing up his death every time they turn their head must be like for his family. I was older than his daughter Frances Bean when I lost my father, but it still hurts even many years after the event. And I feel guilty about participating in another attempt to make money off of his death.
Oh well, here goes nothing.
“Who Killed Kurt Cobain?” by Nick Otero is about the life and death of Kurt Cobain, lead singer of the band, Nirvana and cultural icon to Generation X of the late 80’s and early 90’s. The story is told from Kurt’s childhood imaginary friend named Boddah.
At times, the writing was dark and depressing, something out of a Chuck Palahniuk novel. Not that it’s a complaint. I genuinely enjoy that kind of writing. But at times it becomes trite, and the dialogue starts to run together. Everyone speaks similarly and there are conversations that seem to go nowhere. It’s bordering on the line of someone trying to be deep, but all in all, not making much sense. And just when it seems to be getting to the point the scene, it abruptly stops. After a while, the dialogue and story seemed drag and drag and drag. Until I started to push myself to continue. And when I have to tell myself; “stop letting your mind wander, get back to the story,” about Kurt Cobain, there’s an issue. There were a couple of quotes that I did love, and memories of dialogue that connect his past to his present.
When Kurt tried on Courtney’s lingerie, I loved the dialogue from Boddah.
“Putting on her lingerie was like reaching into her soul. He was incapable of undressing a woman, but had no problem putting on her gear. […] That night as he tried on the clothes of the woman he was falling in love with, he was the happiest woman in the world. […] They made love again that night and this time he was no longer a man and she a woman… they were one.”
The art was good for characters like Boddah who was the muscled and masculine, something that Kurt definitely was not. A ‘perfect’ image of himself who knew him all too well. But that didn’t translate to all the characters. Most of the men looked similar. Kurt looked like Other Character A and Courtney Love hardly looked like her real self.
Speaking of Courtney Love, a lot of her negative qualities were downplayed. They made her come off more as a girl who wanted to be desperately loved and not the violent hell raiser who is desperate to be loved that many musicians claimed what she was. They made it seem like one of the leaders of the ‘Riot Grrrl’ movements, when in fact, it was Kathleen Hanna who I would argue really brought the female grunge scene to the forefront.
Though Courtney Love is admittedly more of a household name, it still appears to be lazy research or fear of Love’s lawyers. It’s probably why he failed to mention that Cobain was on the verge of divorcing Love when he went to rehab before his apparent suicide.
Also, where was Frances Bean? Otero appeared to have forgotten about Frances Bean half way through since she’s hardly mentioned. But there was never any scenes with his daughter. And please correct me if I’m wrong! Instead of spending pages of him droning, there should’ve been more scenes with him being a father and trying to have a normal life despite his depression. It would’ve been great if Otero stuck with the ‘Kurt committed suicide’ angle, and the conflicts between raising and loving his daughter and taking his life.
I wondered how Boddah would feel as he’s “replaced” by Frances. Would he be bitter? Would he be angry? Would he try to put a wedge in between him and Frances, and since Kurt loves his daughter more than anything, would he react in anger towards his old friend? It looks like I’ll never know. Perhaps Otero didn’t want to bring Frances into his graphic novel because it seems to be a low blow? I’m only guessing…
Look, I get it that it’s only a graphic novel, and not a factual biography, but it would’ve made more sense to keep closer to the facts and make his relationship with Love more fatal, and his death, far more tragic. Especially from the angle of the imaginary friend who can only sit there and watch as the inevitable unfolds.
The storyline is very difficult to keep track of if you don’t know the timeline of his twenty-seven years. Even for me, I had to reread a few lines to figure out where the story jumped to. It would’ve been better if it was a made up character who was obviously inspired by Kurt Cobain, which gives him more license to play around with the storyline and characters (i.e Last Days directed by Gus Van Sant).
Read it if you’re a fan of Kurt Cobain and don’t mind some deviation from his life. It’s lackluster, and I would only recommend it for a snowy or boring day. It’s a quick read, but I found it disappointing.
Are you a fan of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain? Did you read this? What did you think? Am I wrong? Comment below or send me a tweet!