Monday, November 06, 2006

Courtney Love Seeks a Comeback with New Book

Courtney Love hasn't exactly written a book -- it's more like an assemblage of stuff related to her life. The question that Salon writer Lisa Levy asks is, why should we care?

And that's an interesting question. I used to like Love, back when Hole was new and she was marrying Kurt Cobain. Since his suicide, her life has been a train wreck of drug abuse, affairs, failures, and some amazing successes as well. Her fame is more about the extremes she will go to in order to stay in the public eye.

She recently discussed her conversion to Buddhist meditation to help her kick her drug addictions. Maybe it will stick this time. Fans of her music can only hope.

Now this new book, which she calls a diary. Here is a bit from the Salon article:

Why we should care about Love's private thoughts given her blatant lust for publicity is the more pressing question that her book raises. There are several reasons Love is a touchstone: She calls herself a feminist when it is a label many women, famous or otherwise, do not wear proudly. But feminists are reluctant to champion her, as her choices have often been embarrassing -- or worse -- from playing Larry Flynt's wife in a controversial film to allegedly using drugs while pregnant with her daughter. Love also commits what amounts to a mortal sin by overestimating her own beauty, talent and achievements, believing utterly in herself in a culture where women's self-esteem is undermined at every turn. And then there are the lingering doubts that she earned that fame at all, having been married to a man more successful than she was, and having refused to fade away graciously after his death. Instead, she has held on even tighter, trying ever harder to prove her worth through her music, her film roles and now her book.

Love is adamant in her author's note about the fact that she "really hasn't written a book." She will find no argument here. This is a pastiche, an assemblage, the most Barthian of texts. Yet it is undeniably a reflection of Love's psyche, confirming that Love's allure lies in her glorious disarray. As they say in the South, she's a hot mess. She is not from the starlet factory where they mint Jojos and Rhiannas and other girls who can do that sweet-yet-sexy-yet-a-little-tough thing. She comes from an era when women played their own instruments and wrote their own songs, but she's not one of those Jewel-ish whiners or Sheryl Crow lite rockers. She's the real deal: a grungy girl punk rock star. And she can't quite shake that aura no matter how high her heels or how fancy her borrowed designer gowns.

Read the whole article -- it's interesting.

Here's a clip of Hole live, singing "Awful" at the MTv Music Awards:

Whatever else she is, untalented isn't it. She was making music and rising in the punk scene long before she met and married Cobain.

The question that interests me is, how do we make sense of her self-destruction and self-promotion in the context of her career? Is that what it looks like to self-destruct in public and enjoy the exposure?

The Salon article looks at the feminism issue, which Love seems to be pushing with the authors she lined up to write commentaries on the book (the afterward is by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, the authors of "Manifesta"). There have been other female artists in the last 20 years to do the whole punk ethos and still be successful musicians, but none have sought fame the way Love has.

So maybe that is why she is still famous and worth looking at. She obsessively creates her fame while at the same time being a victim of it. She shows us our darkest impulses and their consequences.

If we're lucky, she will stay clean this time and get back to what she does best -- making riot grrrl punk rock with a touch of self-consciousness.

No comments: