on 29 October 2003
I bought this book around 6 months ago, just to have something to read. Being a casual reader, my attention span is short when reading. However reading "Heavier than Heaven", I got thinking "maybe i should read alot more".
Kurt Cobain is one of my favourite musicians. Maybe for the music he made or maybe for the legend he left behind but he is my generations icon. This is a fantastic book which I am pleased to have read. From Kurts humble beginnings (which proved testing times for him personally and in his family) to his shocking suicide, the story just pulled my heart strings to a point I have never felt before. After finishing reading it many months ago, certain words and remarks from the book stick with me, especially the poignant ones which gives me a lump in my throat to this day. Charles R Cross has wrote this exceptionally well and each chapter has been crafted with great care. I was expecting some scathing remarks about Kurt, his family and friends but the author creates a very real telling of the events that Jurt went through. (Being the huge Kurt fan I am, I have watched, read, seen and researched as much as I could on him, so I feel confident with my statement)
There are certain things in this book that once you read them will go straight over your head such as the drug usuage and the way Courtney Love was racking her brains trying to find where Kurt had gone in his last few days. its when you put the book down and you just try to understand it more about the feelings and the torture of not knowing what has happened to Kurt. I guess you could say being in their shoes. It is a horrific thought to have to go through such pain but with the way the author described the scenes of anguish (and the joys) you truly feel as if you were the one it was happening to. I hope that you read this book and enjoy it as I have, but much more importantly, you understand that this was a troubled mind and talent that exploded with such force, he changed the world. Anyone who says he did not is a bare faced liar.
If he was here today, I really wonder what he would make of music today. Would he still be relevant? Would music be different or would NIrvana still be together? I feel that they probably would not and Dave Grohl may never have formed the Foo's. Im just happy I was alive when Nirvana and Kurt were around. It is the music of my youth and Heavier than Heaven takes me back to that time each time I read it.
Charles Cross's popular biography of Kurt Cobain is alarming reading. I read Michael Azzerad's Come As You Are back in '94 and remember an acutely different tale. Azzerad was fortunate enough to have had extensive interviews with Cobain, unlike Cross, and his book is strikingly disimilar to this.
Ultimately, I think Cross's account is the more accurate of the two. It is also somewhat different in tone, being a biography of Kurt Cobain, not Nirvana. Cross pulls no punches, and his book is the better for it.
Cobain's duplicity as recorded here is astonishing. This is a compelling account of a man who desparately sought fame and recognition, who invented a history for himself barely worse than his actual past and, inevitably, this is a story of serious drug abuse.
The second half of the book - detailing the years 1991 to 1994 - is overwhelmingly concerned with Cobain's addiction to heroin. Contrary to popular belief, the singer was rarely clean for more than a few weeks during the last three years of his life. This is not light reading; it is the painful account of a young man's weakness and mental decay.
Throughout the book, Courtney Love is respectfully portrayed by Cross as a loving wife and supporter of Cobain. No doubt this is true in some respects, but you get the impression Cross backed-off detailing much of Love's character. In return she provided him with access to Kurt's diaries, some entries from which are published here. It was a reasonable trade-off, I suppose, but not terrific journalism.
Interesting and often horrific, Heavier Than Heaven is a valuable biography for its honesty, and the only essential piece of writing on Cobain so far. Recommended.
on 13 November 2011
Where this book really scores is in the portrayal of Cobain's troubled early life and his years before fame. The seeds were sown for what was to follow, his inability to come to terms with almost overnight mega stardom. In being terrified by being regarded as the spokesperson for a generation there are obvious comparisons with Dylan, almost 30 years earlier. But unlike Dylan, the disturbed Cobain lacking mental strength and a stable background, was unable to ride out the storm. Coupled with undiagnosed health problems, heroin addiction preceded his suicide.
My reservations concerning the latter part of the book result from the major input of Courtney Love. It is very tainted. With all of her own demons she could not have provided the support Cobain so desperately required. This does not come through in the book.
on 19 June 2012
kurt Cobain will remain an iconic figure for years to come and this biography will be a cornerstone book for those wanting to know more.
Cobains story , small town boy , unhappy family , rock star, drugs , multi million seller , drugs , superstar , drugs , suicide...of course the problem with this book is we know how it ends , and that creates a prism through which his life is seen. Cross recreates the speed at which life must have moved for Cobain in the early 90s as though he was there. Somehow though everything seems written to justify the end , although I feel Cross puts too much emotion on the break up of Cobains mother and father as a telling event for all subsequent events. Most people whose parents divorce don't turn to heroin and blow their brains out. This book never really gets to a point of understanding this.
Why does Cobain turn to heroin ? I'm still unclear.
Why does Cobain get portrayed in a clear and good mood in early 1994 then commit suicide weeks later ?
How does Cobain reconcile wanting to be a better parent with heroin abuse and suicide ?
But of course we know how it ends , and this overrides the judgements . I was left at the end of the book feeling that Cobain was neither nice or appealing. What I found fascinating was that all the warning signs of behavior received either in appropriate or no intervention. The cries for help were loud , yet no one wanted to listen. The musical legacy will survive , the question of why still hangs in the air.
on 7 February 2012
cross says he spent four years researching and interviewing for this book and it certainly shows. i've read other biographies (not just about kurt) and often the writer will fall into spending more time telling you what isn't known and speculating on gaps in the history than they do about telling what they have found out - not so with cross. it's extremely detailed (but not in a labourious way), full of incidents/anecdotes/interview quotes & paraphrasing and facts/informed opinions. it's so well written that it reads easily and smoothly; and cross shows a compassion for kurt and everyone involved without undue sentimentality or melodrama or judgement. this book has been criticised for the end which i too criticise - some of the details are simply untrue (such as saying cali was in the house when he wasn't) and cross does veer of into the realms of fiction when it comes to kurt's death. this latter part is not justified criticism though because unless you were there you can only really speculate as to the events, which cross does in such a convincing way - i was in tears over it. as to cross's bias - he claims he was in no way censored by courtney - i don't think he was but i do think he is very pro-courtney and did perhaps portray kurt's depression inclined side more than his up side; but cross did have unlimited access to kurt's personal affects/journals so perhaps kurt's downside was more prevalient than his up (though it would be easier to see it that way if you think of someone as an eventual suicide) despite some friends saying he was often fun. this book is worth buying.
on 24 June 2002
This book was very informative, and I learnt a lot of things about Kurt Cobain that I never knew before. It was sad to read about how he felt like he didn't belong anywhere, and had a lot of turmoil involving his family. It brought a smile to my face when I read that Kurt used to like sledding down a hill near his home as a child, but as the book went on it became sadder and sadder because of his downwards spiral in life. The suicide was written in such deal and with such care that upon finishing the book I was in tears, and I wasn't the only one - so was one of my friends who has also read the book. I would recommend this book to anybody who has an interest in Kurt Cobain, Nirvana, or just music in general as it is a fascinating insight into what made him the legend that he is today. A fitting tribute to a man who changed the face of music forever.
on 1 July 2011
I will admit i really enjoyed this book,though i did wonder if Courtney was being painted as a nicer person than she actually is.
Have just read some really negative reviews claiming courney had a lot to do with this,and yes,i do wonder.
I'd say it's always been quite clear that Kurt wasn't a very happy guy inside,and it would seem likely that he often considered suicide.
I was willing to accept that this was the truth to the author's knowledge,but some stories may've been a little different to actuality. Now i wonder how much assuming or twisting of the truth was done.
I won't go back on my belief that this is a well written book,that i was very impressed by,but i suppose it is just another version of the whole Cobain story. And to be honest,i've always had a problem with Courtney's version,so if this has got a lot to do with her,perhaps it is a little tainted.
I suppose unless you were there at the time,you'll never know the full facts. It's a book that gets you thinking though.
on 20 September 2004
There's no argument when it comes to this book, this is the definitive biography of Kurt Cobain. There are plenty of others, and they all have their strengths, but Charles R. Cross has managed to do it. Heavier than heaven has everything you need; facts, stories and information. It's obvious that we're dealing with someone who knows what he's talking about and has done his research.
Another great feature of this book is that Cross refuses to sugar coat anything, whereas other Cobain Biographies do!
This book will leave you feeling enlightened. Your perceptions of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana would have changed drastically, and you came you can feel irritatingly smug as you show off your new-found knowledge of Kurt Cobain (as I have many times).
on 6 January 2014
Heavier Than Heaven is probably the most accurate portrait of Kurt's life on the market, and boy are there a lot of them on the market. Cross took his work seriously - he spent four years on the project, conducting hundreds of interviews and earning exclusive access to some of the people that refused to speak out for years.
Cross' writing is fluid and fun to read, and he paints a vivid picture that's easy to picture and absorb - I doubt it's 100% accurate in some places, but no biography ever could be. Even autobiographies are skewed, perhaps more so. Still, it's an interesting insight in to the heart, mind and soul of the man who captured the attention of a generation.
One thing that does get to me, though, is the way in which Cross speculates at what happened in the last hours of Cobain's life - that's questionable non-fiction at best, since nothing will ever be proven. Hell, there are people out there that think he's still alive, and I once found a website dedicated entirely to the 'Kurt was murdered' conspiracy. In my eyes, Cross should've left off when the facts were no longer known, then picked up again when his body was discovered, covering the aftermath.
But in the end, who cares? Now that you know that, you know to tread carefully - it's ground worth treading, if you're a Nirvana fan. Fantasy aside, there are plenty of little nuggets that had never been reported on before, at least to my knowledge. Just don't believe everything you read.
Of course, it helps that Cross himself is a well-respected journalist - he edited a well-known music magazine in Seattle for fifteen years, and he's penned a number of books covering everyone from Nirvana and Bruce Springsteen to Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, so he knows what he's talking about. On top of that, he's a competent writer with an eye for detail and human interest - you'll enjoy reading it alright, if you're a Nirvana fan. If you're not a Nirvana fan, why are you reading this review in the first place?
on 19 February 2012
Covers most of the chronology - but for me in a curiously detached, uninvolving style. Comparing it with other Cobain biographical literature, I am also more struck by what it leaves out than what it includes - almost to the point of sanitizing some areas of his life. Although there's the usual relation of Kurt's later angst and drug addiction to the vicissitudes of his childhood (sure he wouldn't have liked that turn of phrase!), what is completely absent is any discussion of the ambivalence in his sexual orientation - which even Courtney Love recognised - hardly a mention of his closest friend in high school or the later liaisons garnered by other writers. Also the insistence on Kurt being straight down the line verges on the homophobic.
On the plus side Cross doesn't skirt over some of the grosser and more lurid stories of Cobain's anti-social antics on tour, basic lack of attention to personal hygiene or the squalor of his domestic surroundings. OK, having been used to student digs, I can understand some of this, but the level of grossness described here sounds record-breaking (excuse the pun). It's a pointer to the man's self-hatred and lack of self-esteem. He also doesn't come out well from the accounts of how he treated members of the group who seemed a threat to his ego (Jason Everman) or just no longer synched with his requirements (Chad Channing), not to mention the using of Tracy Marander. Cross gives a good insight in remarking that the cruel detachment with which he dropped people was perhaps more to do with defending his own fragile self-image than with any real animus towards them. There are so many ambivalences in Cobain, this is in a way what makes him interesting. Not least that of the withdrawn loner who yet seemed to need friends or lovers to support his vulnerable side.
The second half of the book is dominated by his own rise to success and his difficulty in either accepting or coping with this and the explosion into his life of Courtney Love. Cobain - according to this account - seems to have desperately suffered from being dumped by Tobi Vail and finding someone who seems to have been genuinely a match on various levels - sexual, emotional, musical - was clearly significant. But this part of the book turns into such a lovefest of Courtney Love - who seems in this account a cross (again pardon the pun) between the madonna and the greatest female musician of the turn of the century - that I began to wonder if it was a biography of Kurt Cobain or an encomium for Courtney Love. Other sources imply that after the first fine blossoming of romance - and of course the baby - there are suspicions (cut short by Kurt's suicide) whether the relationship was already unravelling by the time of Kurt's death. Whether, indeed, this - and the failure of the musical success and familyhood, which had been the conscious ideals driving him until then - to bring the anticipated fulfilment to his life were the last straws. The return to alienation anaesthetized by drugs was too hard to contemplate. Lack of self-acceptance coupled with the self-hatred internalized by rejection (apparent or real) made life seem no longer preferable to death.
Cross does indeed recognize the significance of self-hatred and its perverse manifestations in the story of Kurt Cobain. But he seems unable to think outside the box in reading between the lines of his life. It's too easy to view the descent into drugs as the explanation for his demise rather than an escape from the pain of his internal conflicts, conflicts which neither musical success nor marriage and parenthood could resolve. For me Christopher Sandford gets nearer to providing a rounded insight into Cobain's life, in which you feel are beginning to get inside this elusive icon's mind. Still, this is a good chronological survey, though with significant areas of Kurt's life passed over and too much emphasis on Courtney Love, which makes the second half far too one-sided to be convincing.