Heavier Than Heaven

Charles Cross

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This month marks the 15th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death, and I just recently picked up this comprehensive biography by Charles Cross. There’s a photo in this book that’s worth the words: Disco-era parents destined to divorce—the wholesome sexpot mom in a faux 1890s dress and velvet choker; the dorky dad with vest and bangs, sideburns, square glasses and a lopsided grin; and little toehead Kurt Cobain, zealously beaming, believing it all. Five years later, he was bounced between them, then to relatives and friends, falsely claiming to live under a bridge at one point. This was the story of Generation X, with its angry, depressive music, ignored by the solvent Boomers. The writing is not exceptional (I found the back story of Nirvana and indie rock—a euphemism for amateur—ho hum), but the book’s accolades are well-deserved, because Cobain himself was enthralling. The sheer weirdness of his mind, behavior and lifestyle (revealed in letters and a diary), is as compelling as the ants swarming on scorpions at the beginning of The Wild Bunch. What disturbed me about the book was our similarities: thrift stores, baby dolls, Dodge Darts and Floyd the barber. Though I found him weak and indulgent, I identified with his cynical insight and rogue individualism.