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Courtney Love: The Real Story Paperback – 6 Apr 1998
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The first biography of Courtney Love done with her cooperation.
About the Author
Poppy Z. Brite is the author of eight novels, three short story collections, two nonfiction books, and some miscellanea.
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This book doccuments Love's life in full; from her overly-rough childhood, to a stripping career throughout her teens, through the ups, downs and OD's of her and Kurdt [Cobain]'s relationship, leading right up to Hole's last album; Celebrity Skin.
As a whole, certain aspects may not be in as much painstaking detail as some people would like, but Poppy Z Brite has injected each page with a non-judgemental yet mesmerizing quality, which makes Love's story easier to relate to, and very hard to put down!
Whether you love her, or hate her; this is none-the-less a fascinating insight into Courtney's life, the people within it, and countless other contributing factors that have made her the kinderwhore-rock-goddess that she is today.
All In All, A Fantastic read; you're taken from laughter, to tears, through her darkest hours and chaotic self discovery and deep within her somewhat divine seeming inspiration. Must read for any Punk/Grunge/Riot Grrl/Rock fan and a remarkable viewpoint of the genre itself.
1. As a rock biography.
Well, it does what it’s supposed to: it tells the rather fascinating tale of Courtney Love’s life and gives the reader a lot of sympathy for her – though it’s not stated outright, it’s obvious that she’s been misunderstood far too often. I’m only a casual fan, so this book filled in some, er, holes in my knowledge; it reveals the other side of the story to the generalisations presented by the more commonly-heard Cobain and Reznor / Manson camps; and it filled my head with amusing facts I went on to spout to anyone who’d listen. It also painted a clear picture of the Riot Grrrl movement I missed on account of being Young and Therefore Aware Of No Alternative To Senseless Commercial Dance at the time, and highlighted elements of the Hole aesthetic that are still prevalent on the websites of teenage girls lacking in imagination today.
However, it’s a very short book, with little more than 200 pages in a large font. The book stated the facts, with little opinion involved, either on the part of the author or the subject, though the rest of the world’s reaction to Love is well documented. Courtney has the most tumultuous childhood and adolescence imaginable, but apart from a few brief analyses of how she must have felt at the early rejection of her parents, there’s little indication of her feelings with regards to being put in reform school and getting caught up in dodgy stripping contracts. Events just happen and happen and happen throughout. Though I understand the purpose of this book is to be non-judgemental, analysis is still possible, as evidenced in one of her late husband’s biographies, “Heavier Than Heaven”. Kurt’s youth is far less interesting by comparison, yet his every action is analysed in careful loving detail. All we get of Courtney in “The Real Story” is that she’s messed up but determined. Further, Kurt’s desire to die is introduced suddenly, and Courtney’s dealing with the suicide is summarised by a “she couldn’t remember much about the time immediately afterwards”. Although I can appreciate the author not wanting to get bogged down by this much-written-of-event, this was a far cry from the two-hundred-odd page saga in Victoria Beckham’s autobiography about the nightmare of fame, which made the reader deeply sympathetic and terrified; this account of a much more traumatic and fascinating event was over too quickly to do a substantial amount of heartstring-tugging. (Yes, I have a wide taste in biographies.)
Judging by the reviews, this matters little to the Courtney obsessive, but it makes the book seem somewhat frivolous to the more detached and objective reader, seeking the, er, whole picture.
2. As a Poppy Z. Brite book.
Having read and enjoyed Poppy Z. Brite’s first four books, I was really looking forward to reading this. What with her being the queen of purple prose and her obvious confidence for writing about music, bands and scenes, I was expecting this biography to be somewhat similar to one of Neil Strauss’s: less trashy and more intelligent, but with the same sharpness, same quantity of adjectives and equally in-yer-face. Nope: instead we get the most straightforward writing imaginable (which I gather is also present in Poppy’s more recent novels). Apart from a couple of Dramatic Foreshadowing Sentences (which feel forced), it’s written as plainly as a manual. On the positive side, this makes it very easy to read, but you get none of the joy from the mastery of language the best rock journalists display, whether their writing can be gobbled up or you have to read each paragraph three times to get the sense of it.
So, all in all, it was fun enough to read, but it only left me hungry for a Courtney biography with a style and depth I can really get my teeth into.
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