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Dirty Blonde is a book containing the diaries of Courtney Love - founder of the band Hole and more famously the wife of the late Kurt Cobain. She is also a model and actress.
I haven't managed to make my way through the whole book in one go. I find it more of a coffee table book. It's nice to browse through, but it's not a coherent story. I was hoping it would be like Nikki Sixx's autobiography 'The Heroin Diaries' which has his diary snippets accompanied by explanations so it feels like a proper book. Anyway, this isn't a review of that book so back to Dirty Blonde.
I don't know a whole lot about Courtney Love. I am a huge Nirvana fan and that is probably the only reason I have actually heard of her. I have listened to a bit of her band, Hole, but they're not one of my favourite bands. She's the ultimate rock star, having lived a life of excess and paid the price for it. She's like a trashier Debbie Harry and I love her style. This book reflects all of those things, but without the in-depth information behind it.
Dirty Blonde is visually stunning. It's got a scrapbook feel and there are pretty pictures and ornate paper everywhere. Unfortunately, a huge amount of the writing is illegible and it takes me a while to get the gist of each diary entry - there are a lot of pictures that I don't understand the relevance, but they are still nice to look at. It gives a very frenzied feel, which I guess represents Courtney's life.
For me, what else is lacking is the lack of emotion regarding Kurt's death. I wanted to get choked up and really see what she was going through, but there was only a double paged spread with very little substance - I guess at the time she wasn't too concerned with writing her diary. I did enjoy the family photos with Frances Bean (the couple's daughter) and Kurt - really emotional when you know the tragedy that breaks up this seemingly happy family. If you are a big fan of Hole, you get to see posters from their very early shows and what appear to be Courtney's first drafts for many of their songs, but without annotations and labels for any of the pieces of paper it's hard to tell what they are - there's a lot of guesswork involved!
I have the hardback version, but they also make a paperback version - I would not recommend buying this because, as I've mentioned before, it's not really a story you would read from cover to cover. The paperback would not do the visuals justice.
Overall, I think this book is beautiful, but there needs to be titles and paragraphs written in the current day explaining what is going on on each page. I'm glad I own it because I love looking through it, but I didn't get the biography I was looking for. It's an insight, definitely, but not a biography. After seeing what an interesting life she has lead, I may buy a biography of hers called "Courtney Love: The Real Story" by Poppy Z Brite which may shed some light on the scrapbook that is Dirty Blonde.
I'll start this review by saying that I am neither a fan nor a hater of Courtney Love and I didn't set out with the specific intention to buy this book. I was on a book buying shopping spree in my local 'The Works' shop, when I came across this book.
From the outset you can tell this won't exactly be a book for your children to read - it's bright and colourful, but it does feature a photo of Courtney's naked rear on the front cover. I suppose this was chosen to set the theme of 'baring all' that this book intends as the contents are of course Courtney's private scribblings (most closely approximated to diaries) over the years, which at the time of writing, were not intended for publication.
If you've ever read Kurt Cobain's journals, then you'll find this follows a similar layout, although Courtney's own book contains many more photos and scraps of things that were taped into her original notebooks. To maintain that feeling of reading the original notebooks, they haven't been typed out - everything has been scanned in so you still see the original paper and the dented impressions of text from other pages, all reproduced on a high quality paper.
The book charts quite a large number of years through Courtney's life - from teenage years up until a few years past the millennium. It can be quite hard to work out what's happening in her life/what year it is as she rarely dated anything and often doesn't mention important dates eg. She never writes about finding out she's pregnant with Frances or marrying Kurt, but she will suddenly write about the pregnancy . Essentially there are few things mentioned that help your ground what period of Courtney's life you are reading about.
Her handwriting is a bit on the messy side and as she often writes sentences that don't necessarily make much sense, it can be hard to work out what she's actually written. There were often times when I would have to read something repeatedly to try and work out what a certain word was, and a couple of times I resorted to asking my boyfriend if he could work it out. From that perspective, it's not an easy read.
The book doesn't follow a traditional diary format as you will find, not only Courtney's scribbled thoughts, but also photos, letters and emails all mixed up together. I found this gives an interesting variation and provides different perspectives on her life, how she portrays herself to others and how she is in turn perceived.
As mentioned I'm not particularly a fan of Courtney Love's or her band Hole, as such I didn't find the scribbled song lyrics particularly interesting and mostly skim read over them. If you are a fan of her or her band though, I'm sure these will be of real interest.
Neither the introduction nor the Afterword were written by Courtney, although I'm sure they were vetted by her. They both offer a frank and interesting discussion on who Courtney is through the eyes of the public, versus who she is in 'reality', what the media writes, versus straight from the horses mouth.
Price wise the hardcover version of this book can be bought for £9.09 new on Amazon, the paperback version only seems available as used from amazon market place. I however purchased my paperback copy from 'The Works' for £3.99. Personally I wouldn't have wanted to pay much more than £5 for this book, but for a fan £9.09 would probably be worthwhile.
I can't say this book changed the way I feel about Courtney Love, but it has given me more of an insight into who she is and why she acts the way she does. Some of the aspects of her life that are mentioned in fleeting passes, intrigue me enough to make me want to find out more about her. I think this book would have made more sense and 'flowed' better for me if I knew a fair bit about Courtney before I read it. In this way the book would be a great read for any fan of hers, but I would also recommend it to anyone who enjoys this sort of informal, autobiographical take on a celebrity life.