Into the Void of Misunderstanding: The Journals of Kurt Cobain

I write this on the 41st anniversary of my journal.

My reading glasses sit on a map of Colorado in the morning sun. Two things of note... 1. I recently switched to 2.0x readers, partially due to trying to read Kurt Cobain's child-like handwriting, and 2. Abby and I hope to visit Colorado again very soon.
My reading glasses sit on a map of Colorado in the morning sun. Two things of note… 1. I recently switched to 2.0x readers, partially due to trying to read Kurt Cobain’s child-like handwriting, and 2. Abby and I hope to visit Colorado again very soon.

My reviewance of Kurt Cobain’s journal continues. I am about halfway through, but I grab his big red book at every commodal sit-down and late afternoon nap. So far, it has been every bit the epic roller coaster I hoped it would.

“No matter what you write, it will be completely misinterpreted by everyone who reads it every time.” ~M7

“Don’t read my diary when I’m gone.” ~Kurt Cobain, in his journal

When I got ahold of the journals of Kurt Cobain and published an insistent social media post about it, I was set upon by immediate misinterpretation by friends and acquaintances, the most significant of which was the notion that this was about the band Nirvana or the grunge music scene in the early 1990s.

The Initial Commentary...

“I’m not a fan of Cobain or Nirvana. It’s not because I specifically dislike him or their music, it’s just not my thing.”

“…never cared for Cobain or Nirvana. I know the ‘Teen Spirit’ thing always made the charts and lists as a great song and I never understood why. Love music and my taste runs from Pink Floyd to Johnny Cash and a lot in between but Nirvana wasn’t one of them.”

“Nirvana was meh. I don’t think it translates very well post-90s, but that is just me.”

“Overrated band….period..and history has now proven that.”

This has nothing to do with music.

I saw these journals and, as a journal writer and reader, I was fascinated. I said that in the initial post, but… sigh. Maybe M7 was right. Maybe my best efforts to unravel Cobain’s thoughts are doomed from the start.

Sometimes I see myself as far too organized, far too careful. Part of me admires Cobain’s total chaos. Even when I try to let myself be chaotic, in writing or photography, the chaos I create is pretentious and fraudulent. I am not, however, a fraud myself. Two works I admired as a teenager and later found out to be complete fakes were Go Ask Alice and Jay’s Journal, both conjured by a religious nutbag to try to scare kids away from drug, the occult, and Satanism. Ironically, it drew more kids to those things than away, so hmm. Maybe it was a false flag. I don’t know. Maybe no one knows.

I won’t make this post a review of Cobain’s journals, at least not until I have made a couple of complete passes through it, but this is an indictment of myself: too careful, too controlled, too controlling, too disgusted and afraid of what I might become if I let go of all that.

I made this pretentious illustration of journals this morning. Possibly the most pretentious thing about it is that my own journals, the spiral-bound ones from years ago, and a hardback volume of today, above and beneath the others. Wow, Richard. Blunt.
I made this pretentious illustration of journals this morning. Possibly the most pretentious thing about it is that my own journals, the spiral-bound ones from years ago, and a hardback volume of today, above and beneath the others. Wow, Richard. Blunt.

2 Comments

  1. “I was set upon by immediate misinterpretation…”

    I get that a lot. Week after week, I consider ceasing to write to avoid misinterpretation, and then have to remind myself that I’m writing for ME (the online part is only for convenience). And of course, I assume I’m often misunderstanding what *others* are saying or doing. So I scroll past posts without interacting, afraid I’ve misunderstood again. (Surely they can’t mean THAT, can they? And if I actually ask, I ask in an unintentionally hurtful way, which requires more explanation and interaction than I’d intended.)

    As I told my wife recently when she was nervous about something at work: “Other people can’t tell what you’re thinking or feeling. They can only see what you do and hear what you say.” In her case, I was reminding her that her nervousness was invisible to others, but in my case, it’s a reminder to check what I write and make sure my intent is coming through.

    “…too careful, too controlled, too controlling, too disgusted and afraid of what I might become if I let go of all that.”

    Ouch. Some of that hits home for me. Regardless, this is about you and I’m glad you’re enjoying your dive.

  2. I’m not a journal-keeper, but I have often wondered: Just how honest are people being when they’re journaling? I think if I read someone’s journals after they died, I would question each statement too skeptically. “Did he truly feel that, or is he just writing it here because he’s afraid of saying it aloud?” What if you write your opinion one day, but then when your opinion changes fail to note that change in your journal? The reader will only know the one you recorded.

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