Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain
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a u t h o r   Charles R. Cross
p u b l i s h e r   Hyperion
i s b n   0786865059
f o r m a t   Book (hardcover w/ dust jacket)
p a g e s   381
s i z e   9.5" x 6.25"
d a t e   2001.07.??

u s e r   r a t i n g s
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o v e r a l l   7.6   (3 votes)
i n f o   8.0
a c c u r a c y   8.0
p h o t o s   6.3
r e c o m m e n d e d   8.0

a v a i l a b i l i t y
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i n t e r v i e w

n o t e s
  (Provided by Hyperion.)

On August 15, 2001-near the 10th anniversary of Nirvana's landmark Nevermind album-Hyperion Books publishes the first in-depth biography of musician Kurt Cobain.  Heavier Than Heaven ($24.95, hardcover) by veteran music journalist Charles R. Cross tells an extraordinary story of artistic brilliance and the pain that extinguished it.

Based on more than 400 interviews, four years of research, and exclusive access to Cobain's unpublished diaries, Heavier Than Heaven traces Cobain's life from his early days in a double-wide trailer outside of Aberdeen, Washington, to his rise to fame, success, and the adulation of a generation.  Cross reveals the familial turmoil that fueled Cobain's creativity, the generational history that forged his character, and the unusual love story that shaped his relationship with wife Courtney Love.  Drawing from never-before-released medical and police reports, and Cobain's own private writings, Cross also reveals for the first time the truth about Cobain's final days.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: From 1986 to 2000, Charles R. Cross was Editor of The Rocket, the first magazine to put Nirvana on its cover.  He is the author/coauthor of three other books: Backstreets: Springsteen, the Man and His Music; Led Zeppelin: Heaven and Hell; and Nevermind: The Classic Album.  His writing has appeared in Rolling Stone, Esquire, Spy, and many other publications.  He lives in Seattle.

r e v i e w s
  By nirvanadiscography.com (Joris)
  • "I proofread this book for Mr. Cross and I am still stunned by its contents and frankness.  Of course it is impossible for me to give you any scoop here but I can assure you it is filled with many and more.  Some details we fans knew about but we were never confirmed, some details we thought we knew but are now broken up and most we never saw or read.  Knowing that some details were left out simply due to the lack of paper (4 years of research makes a big archive); what is left for the reader is easy to read and fascinating to comprehend.  This ultimate Cobain biography takes us from Kurt's childhood days to his Seattle mansion's bedroom where we actually join him in his last hours and thoughts.  Especially these last chapters (yes 1994) are haunting and make one's bones chill.

    "Where COME AS YOU ARE by Azerad or COBAIN by Sanford started, this book closes up any discussion.  A must read about a sad, too short and complex life, the abuse of drugs and the price of fame."

By Ben Dweck

  • "I will just go out and say it -- HTH is a book with flaws -- huge flaws.  While many relatively old-time internet Nirvana fans have pretty much made it a mission to get people to read CAYA *critically,* the same backlash has not yet happened for HTH (why? Perhaps it's something akin to puppy love -- this is the first decent biography of Nirvana in 8 years; perhaps it is because we know that another effort is not even in the speculative stage), though it certainly should be subjected to a similar reactionary-type response.  It is clear that Cross committed what has to be considered the mortal sin for a biographer; he printed dubious information; things which were certainly outside of his -- or anyone's -- possible field of knowledge; and outright speculation as knowledge.  Witness the following passage:

    • 'With so many delays that he couldn't control, Kurt felt like he was the only one in the world ready for his musical career.' (111)

    "Needless to say, it is impossible for anyone to do anything more than speculate as to Kurt's mental state at any point in his life, but Cross does so regularly, presenting obvious speculation in the same exact way that he presents hard fact.

    "These missteps are more than mere pecadillos for several reasons; as I mentioned earlier, we're not likely to receive anything better in the near future (and near future meaning 5-or-so years), and, assuming that grunge/early-'90s-alternative music is relegated to the margins of music history (a process over which many Nirvana fans seem to be in serious denial), this may be the last significant work published about our beloved Nirvana.  Additionally, Cross had more to work with than any Nirvana biographer since Michael Azerrad; Love gave Cross wholly unprecedented access to Kurt's journals and tapes, and Cross dropped the ball in a huge way, printing stuff he thought was poetic, and refusing, for whatever reason, to consistently reprint portions of Kurt's journals in a manner parallel to his life story, a technique which obviously would have shed a great deal of light on many aspects of Kurt's personality.  It is also important to note that there are alarmingly few points in the book when Cross feels comfortable printing something mildly anti-Love; whether these omissions served to grease the proverbial wheels or whether history has simply given Love shorter shrift than she deserves is both unclear and irrelevant; Cross should certainly have at least *acknowledged* the huge segment of the population which suspects that Love had a huge part in Kurt's downfall.

    "Other pitfalls have been discussed elsewhere -- Charles Furth's (otherwise positive) review of HTH draws very much attention to Cross's rather curious stylistic choice of leaving out huge chunks of information, presumably because they were dealt with in CAYA.  Much was made in various forums about several easily-correctable gaping fact-holes -- 'Pennyroyal Tea' being co-written by Love is the most prominent example -- holes which should by all means call into question what Cross presents as new fact; however, there has been alarmingly little skepticism from our branch of the Nirvana community.

    "HTH must be recommended, however, to even the casual Nirvana fan if only because of the admirably huge amount of new information it provides (even if some of it is somewhat sketchy).  I would just like to recommend that these fans proceed with caution; Cross took some weird routes with HTH (for example, the book can be read as *anti-cobain,* and one suspects that this reading is primarily possible because Cross was trying to solidify HTH's position as the anti-CAYA (i.e. the 'far from official' Nirvana biography)), and I must caution the reader not to follow said routes blindly, HTH is a classic example of a book that must be navigated with caution.

    "Cross's journalistic tenacity must be lauded -- he did conduct over 400 interviews (the objects of which are sometimes amusingly (yet weirdly admirably) banal) -- but it is not presumptuous to suggest that he simply was not a sufficiently skilled biographer and writer to handle the information he had."

By nirvanadiscography.com (Dave)

  • "Joris' and Ben's reviews above hit on many of the same points that came to mind as I read this book, and afterwards as I thought things over.  Cross does a great job of providing the reader with a lot of new details, so much so that at times you will be forced to rethink what you knew about Cobain, especially his drug habit and how much he lied/mislead/played the media.  At the same time, Cross' overindulgence on some topics is contrasted with an equal but opposite lack of detail in areas that desparately need more attention or clarification.  This can be frustrating in an otherwise easy-reading book, which I dare say is 'enjoyable' in that it offers so much new material to think about or discuss.

    "My only problem with this book, besides the nagging issue previously mentioned, is the chapter about Cobain's last morning.  While it's not as outrageous as I previously thought, the initial feeling I had was that it seemed more like fiction or a theory as Cross connected the dots.  Maybe I'm dense because it took some time for me to realize what Cross had done, but I was caught off guard with the style of writing in this chapter.  I suppose it makes for better reading than laying out the facts in a more straightforward approach, though.

    "Overall, I would still highly recommend this book.  It is on par with Come As You Are as an informational resource and clearly the best material that has been released in years."

David Browne, author, Dream Brother: The Lives & Music of Jeff & Tim Buckley

  • "Written with a journalist's eye for riveting detail and a fan's heartfelt appreciation for Nirvana's music, Charles R. Cross' Heavier Than Heaven stage-dives headfirst into the heart, soul, and torment of one of rock's most galvanizing figures.  Revelatory and moving, it's as essential to any rock-history bookshelf as Nevermind is to any CD cabinet."

Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2001

  • "Cross treats the strange, unhappy life of musician Kurt Cobain with intelligence and an insider's perceptiveness."

Library Journal, July 2001

  • "Cross transcends the other Cobain biographies by conducting over 400 interviews and gaining access not only to the singer's widow, Courtney Love, but also to the musician's private journals, which provide fascinating insights into Cobain's troubled mind.  Ultimately this is a carefully crafted and compelling tragedy."

q u e s t i o n s
  These are the questions that were submitted to Mr. Cross on behalf of the DN Forum members.  He chose not to answer them.

s o u r c e s
  Joris Baas, Charles Cross, Members of the Digital Nirvana Forums, John Weaver


Digital Nirvana