The Diaries of Courtney Love
Dirty Blonde: The Diaries of Courtney LoveCourtney Love
(Faber & Faber · Hardcover · $35)
She's the lady who took the template of the blond bombshell and knocked her teeth out, put a smoke in her hand and smeared ash on her face—the fearlessly sexual, bombed-out woman in little girl's clothes. Sure, Courtney Love's anti-autobiography is interesting. But is it revealing? As exposed, say, as her uncovered, sweaty breast on a stage before thousands? The question here really is: What don't you already know about Love?
The book begins with child Courtney. She goes to boarding school, receives a rejection letter from the Mickey Mouse Club and writes in big, bubbly font. Soon, she's off to reform school, a smart, lonely and insecure adolescent. With the inclusion of stubs from the juvenile court system, reviews of her behavior, lists of the places she stayed, it's almost like Love's proving to her audience that her life really was jacked up. Her beginnings are almost a cliché of a rock star's life, but they paint a semi-lucid picture of how this process turned Love into a person who needed mass love, someone who set out to be famous—and achieved it.
That, right there, is the most fascinating thing about this self-created archetype. Courtney Love decided to become famous, almost needed fame as a substitute parent or lover, and somehow, she did it. Imagining all the people out there who've made the same decision but didn't find their way to the international spotlight, that hunger becomes the under-the-skin lynchpin of her persona. What is it about Love?
In her diary, she's often naked in every sense of the word, discussing things you wouldn't likely hear other stars touch—her nose job, the last time she made love Kurt Cobain, the "female castration" she experienced marrying a rock star. Photos of Kurt and Frances are similarly rewarding. She's not a dumb lady, and when she decides to really get into the dirt of her life, she's at her poignant best.
But for someone who prides herself on her unabashed nudity, there's obviously a lot she's left out. The rest of it—the unreadable poetry, the magazine spreads, photo after famous photo—at the end of the book seem to say, after all that, this is the finished product. This thin, tortured thing with her nice nose and acceptable proportions, this is the hardened, fully baked cookie.
The introduction by Carrie Fisher provides some decent insight into the diary's contents. "This friend and former neighbor of mine has healed herself on and off in four ways (that I know of) over the years: with genius men, bad medicine, great music and motherhood." But even that statement is more telling than much of the book, perhaps because the experience of reading Love's diary is more like being inside and looking out, and it's hard to get insightful information from that angle.
It's a decent coffee-table book, meant to be flipped through in any direction, opened to any old page, though this scrap heap might be more at home near your toilet. That's not to say it isn't interesting, if only accidentally cohesive, but because this is the uncomfortable detritus of Love's life, a woman bent on bleak, it deserves to live in the harsh lighting of your bathroom.