It just occurred to me that there are probably a lot of young people who have never read Kurt Cobain’s Journals, and here’s why you should:
Image Description: A red spiral bound notebook titled “Kurt Cobain Journals”, a single volume collection containing multiple personal notebooks from Cobain collated and published after his death. Image Description Ends Here.
I know that there is still controversy around the fact that these were ever published at all. I fully understand that, and respect that. It sure as fuck wasn’t ideal, the circumstances in which these were collated and made public.
I am aware that his daughter does not like that they were published, and she herself has stated she will never read them. It is perfectly fine and totally up to you, if you want to abstain from reading them as well.
At the same time, I can’t deny the impact these Journals had on young people reading them when they first came out. This was the first time a lot of young people had really seen politics laid out in a way that was clear and understandable before; 12 year olds in the 90s/early 2000s didn’t really have broad or easy access to Marxist PDFs back then.
A Couple Points: Why These Journals Are Important
Keeping the above in mind, I think it’s worth reading, because not only are these Journals a great historical look into the teen/young adult cultural scene at the time in terms of mindset and the types of social and cultural experiences people were having, but it is also incredibly encouraging to young creatives (whether you are a writer, musician, artist, or any other creative type), and it also highlights two very important things:
1) Cobain suffered from at least one undiagnosed chronic illness and struggled with chronic pain, and this is evident in his writings, notes, and other aspects of his life.
I will not debate whether or not this contributed to his death or to his substance abuse, but it is generally considered to be highly likely, and medical neglect is a recurring theme in his life either way.
It is heavily hinted here and in other related discussions/materials relating to Cobain’s life that the cost of medical care was a large factor in his health decline overall.
These issues are still affecting millions of people right now; Even Cobain’s high profile death and fairly well known chronic illness was not enough to inspire any real discussion of ableism or health system/culture criticisms, and the chronic pain community is currently under an onslaught of anti-pain management medical/academic propaganda that has led to the continuation of untold suffering.
You must consider the disabled in how you engage with society, and the Journals may give some insight to abled people as to how chronic pain and illness affected Cobain-- And therefore, how it affects many others, right now. Still.
2) Cobain was highly politically engaged, and Socialist/Anti-Capitalist sentiments heavily informed his personal perspective and creative work.
Now, I mentioned the Marxist leaning elements of his notes above, but he heavily emphasised common Socialist points as well as what could be interpreted as Communist leanings-- Either way, he was very much anti-capitalist and anti-f*cist.
His points in these Journals are still very relevant right now, if not even moreso.
Banned in Public Schools: That’s How You Know It’s Good
When these were published I was in middle school at the time, and it instantly became the biggest thing amongst my circles (queers, punks, aspiring artists).
At first, the teachers loved it: Holy shit, the kids are reading!
But then, within about a week of two copies of the Journals being circulated between classrooms between students, suddenly both copies were taken by teachers and never returned to their owners.
We wondered, what the fuck? We were reading, isn’t that supposed to be good? They’re going to take another fucking book away from us? Why?
Well, here are some screenshots from across just five pages of the Journals:
All are handwritten notes in ballpoint pen on lined paper, excerpts from one of his journals.
1) Think of being the stuck up, self-righteous, segregating, guilt-spreading, ass kissing, white, right-wing republicans of the future. K*ll the Rockefellers.
2) Don’t r*pe, Don’t be prejudice [sic], Don’t be sexist, Love your children, Love your neighbour, Love yourself. Don’t let your opinions obstruct the aforementioned list.
3) Censorship is VERY American.
Image Description Ends Here.
I attended a public school in the USA, and of course, the public school system was just as shitty back in the 90s and early 2000s as it is today.
They found out what the Journals contained, and IMMEDIATELY it was banned. His music was banned. We were not allowed to wear Nirvana band t-shirts anymore, even though this had been done for years with no problems prior to the Journals being published.
This was part of the post-9/11 abuses of students in the USA, where anything not pro-Christian Jesus and pro-America was essentially used to label students as “risks” or “dangerous”, and led to a lot of trauma and undue punishment for the student and young adult population.
I have to say, that any banned books are probably worth a read, because they were banned by someone, and it’s good to find out why. What were they trying to hide? In this case, I think it’s clear--- Even just from three notes, out of thousands contained within the Journals.
The Journals are still relevant, very much so, and are still a valuable source of inspiration for many. For my age group, it contributed to creating a greater political awareness, something that was critical during the immediately post-9/11 era.
Please be warned, there is explicit content and several triggers including mentions of sexual abuse, violence, and others throughout the Journals, so please read through it carefully if you may be affected by this type of content but may still want to check it out.
Me and my friends were aged about 12 when the Journals came out and we were reading them, but shit was different back then, so please heed the content warning above.
I hope it inspires someone out there, the way it inspired me and my friends when we were young.
You can read the whole thing for free here on the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/KurtCobainsJournal
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