Cobain's journals reveal years of suicidal torment. The Nirvana frontman's diaries contain his thoughts on drugs, stardom, Courtney, and his desire to put himself out of his misery

By Gary Susman
Updated October 18, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT
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”I like sincerity. I lack sincerity.” That quick quip, from an early entry in Kurt Cobain’s journals, serves as a neat encapsulation of both the Nirvana frontman’s wit and his ultimately fatal self-loathing. ”Journals,” which is to be published next month, is excerpted in the current Newsweek, and the writings, which span the years from Nirvana’s obscurity to Cobain’s reluctant stardom to his 1994 suicide, touch on all the issues he wrote about in his lyrics — drugs, guns, his guilt over his fame, his love for wife Courtney Love, and his ever-present desire to end his own pain. The book, for which the Cobain estate earned a whopping $4 million advance, joins a new set of Nirvana-bilia, including the previously unreleased song ”You Know You’re Right” and an upcoming greatest-hits CD.

By early 1991, when the band was still largely unknown but on the verge of releasing its breakthrough album ”Nevermind,” Cobain was already an experienced drug user. In a letter he wrote to ex-girlfriend Tobi Vail of the band Bikini Kill, he said, ”As you may have guessed by now I’ve been taking to a lot of drugs lately. It might be time for the Betty Ford clinic or the Richard Nixon library to save me from abusing my enemic [sic], rodent-like body any longer.”

The story that Cobain used to circulate — that he took heroin to ease the pain of a chronic stomach ailment that doctors seemed unable to diagnose properly or cure — is repeated several times in the diaries. He joked, ”Please lord, f–k hit records, just let me have my very own unexplainable rare stomach disease named after me. And the title of our next double album, ‘Cobain’s disease.”’ He wrote, ”I decided to relieve my pain with small doses of heroine [sic] for a walloping 3 whole weeks. It served as a band-aid for a while but then the pain came back so I quit. It was a stupid thing to do and I’ll never do it again and I feel real sorry for anyone who thinks they can use heroine as a medicine because um, duh, it don’t work.”

Cobain defended Courtney Love from fans and bad press that suggested the Hole singer had married him in 1992 just to ride his coattails. He wrote, ”Courtney, when I say I love you I am not ashamed, nor will anyone ever ever come close to intimidating persuading, etc. me into thinking otherwise. I wear you on my sleeve. I spread you out wide open with the wing span of a peacock, yet all too often with the attention span of a bullet to the head.”

Still, Cobain felt like he’d betrayed his core fans by signing a major-label record deal and becoming famous. In a 1992 open letter to his fans, which he never released, he wrote, ”Oh Pleez GAWD I can’t handle the success! The success! And I feel so incredibly guilty! For abandoning my true comrades who were the ones who are devoted who were into us a few years ago. And in 10 years when NIRVANA becomes as memorable as Kajagoogoo that same very small percent will come to see us at reunion gigs sponsored by Depends diapers, bald fat still trying to RAWK at amusement parks. Saturdays: puppet show, rollercoaster & Nirvana…” He concluded, ”Hope I die before I turn into Pete Townshend.”

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