I’m not using "dull" in the disingenuous way a lot of prudish reviewers do, using that word when they mean "offensive." Nikki’s decadence isn’t offensive, it’s just plain dull. His prose style, yes--that’s offensive. To paraphrase Tommy Lee, it’s bad as fuck. This book was supposedly co-written by a British rock journalist, but this fool, one Ian Gittins, can’t write any better than Nikki. Let’s play count-the-cliches in this passage from Ian’s Introduction explaining his work on the book:
"…[W]e were able to fill in the black holes and piece together the story of a man who, at the beating heart of an over-the-top rock band, was profoundly falling apart at the seams."
Well, everybody knows that black holes are tough on seams, even if you’re wearing leather pants. Ian is so clueless he can’t tell the difference between the idiom of 1990s Britain and1980s L.A. Here’s a quick tip, Ian: 1980s L.A. cokeheads didn’t use "gear" to mean drugs.
Ah, drugs; these stories of "pain" and redemption do keep circling around the "black hole" of drugs, And no one, except us, will say the simple truth that people do drugs because drugs are fun. Whenever I hear about another celebrity’s "battle with drugs," I have to laugh. What’s the battle—price dispute over an eight-ball?
If somebody like Nikki could come out and say, "I did a lot of drugs and had a wonderful time!" he could redeem himself. That wouldn’t take much talent or brains, just a little honesty. But there’s no honesty here. Byron, the original and still the best bad-boy celebrity, left "the moral North" to die fighting in Greece because he dared to talk honestly about that era’s great taboo, sex. He died still writing funny, modest verses on his sacrifice, like this bit of self-mocking doggerel written just before his death:
When a man hath no freedom to fight for at home,
Let him combat for that of his neighbors;
Let him think of the glory of Greece and of Rome,
And get knock’d on the head for his labors.
Byron never surrendered, never found God or AA’s "higher power" or groveled to the sanctimonious majority back home. In our time, perhaps only Hunter Thompson showed that sort of lifelong heretical courage. It certainly can’t be found in Nikki’s reconstructed scribbles, which doggedly follow the Protestant tale of the Saved Sinner.
The elements of the story are simple. First, of course, the hero has to dive deep into sin, otherwise nobody’d be interested at all. This part of the story is always bragging disguised as confession: "My sins are bigger and gaudier than yours." Nikki and Ian have done their best to check this item off the list; they serve up quantity, if not quality, in the sin course. The sinner must then crash and burn, hitting bottom. Nikki fulfils this requirement on page 384—and my God, what a relief it is when it comes. I’ve never cheered so heartily for a medical problem in my life: "Kill him! Spread through those veins! Do your stuff, smack!"
Alas, he makes it. And naturally, God comes in as Nikki’s eyes roll up. Before he can even turn blue properly, Nikki is visited by Grace—Grace the religious epiphany, not the groupie of the same name. His unintentionally hilarious reaction to the fact that he’s been literally, physically saved is, "Maybe there is a God."
Many an observer would have come to the opposite conclusion: Cobain kills himself and Nikki lives? There is no god.
Nikki survives simply because he’s famous; he’s surrounded by adoring, masochistic women, one of whom revives him. Without the fame and fortune, not only would he have died but his "pain" would interest no one at all. Suffering served up without these condiments is available all around you. Just look into the cars stopped beside you at the next red light; you can see all the suffering you want any time, for free—if you want to. But how many bestsellers do you see about the suffering of, say, a single mom working at WalMart in Houston with chronic back pain and a broken air conditioner? That’s true suffering. That’s Hell on earth. But nobody wants to know about it. Nikki’s suffering, by contrast, has spent a long time on Amazon’s top thousand sellers.