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Come as you are

Next week marks 16 years of the death of Kurt Cobain. A remarkable book that goes behind the curtains to bring us portraits of an iconic musician as a private man.

books Updated: Apr 02, 2010 21:10 IST

CobainUnseen
Charles R Cross
Hodder & Stoughton
* Rs 1,350 * pp 160

The cliché about the rock star not being able to handle fame has been spread as obviously as snow in the Arctic. But what makes Cobain Unseen, a more-than-just-a-picture-book-than-a-picture-book about Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain is that it cuts through the chase and deals with Cobain as the individual artistic force stripped of the hyped ‘Seattle Scene’ or ‘Grunge Generation’ to bring as full-bodied a portrait as we can get of the artist as an artist.

Apart from being a delight for the Cobain fan this is the book that takes us so close to an artist that we can metaphorically see the scrawl he worked on to make what he made. One realises through this incredibly produced book — there is a transcript of the first draft of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, a copy of a polaroid shot of Cobain, his doodes, the collectibles that indirectly formed a part of the punk-grunge-pop sound that was the crie de coeur of Cobain-Nirvana.

Like John Lennon, Cobain’s universe was cesspooled from the world of the visual arts, and we get clues about that and how the visual turned to sonic. The person — son, musician, husband, father — fretlines like electricity over these pages.

Biographer Charles Cross’ text provides the perfect ropeline.

Even if you’re not a rock’n’roll nut, this book should shake up things for people dealing with the aesthetics of books. With its quite ecstatic production and eye for details this is also the future of books in the age of Kindle. But what the book really delves in is the ingredients that made a voice.

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