MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Karan Mahajan is the author of the novel "Family Planning." Mahajan was born in the United States, but he grew up in New Delhi. Thats also where his first novel takes place. "Family Planning" is a tragic-comic story of a New Delhi politician who's become obsessed with having more and more children, even as his family and city collapse around him.
In his own reading, Mahajan admits to enjoying the musings of a grunge rock star who is mostly worshipped by teenagers. Here's his essay for our series "My Guilty Pleasure," in which authors talk about a book theyre embarrassed to love.
Mr. KARAN MAHAJAN (Author, "Family Planning"): When you're done reading every last thing by a famous writer, literary convention holds that you move on to his or her letters, the DVD extras peddled by publishers. I have friends who have read the letters of Philip Larkin, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, John Cheever, you name it. I have very pretentious friends.
So it always embarrasses me to admit that the only complete set of journals I own are those by Kurt Cobain, a rock star. Not just any old rock star, but one who used to cross dress, and rhymes the word mosquito with libido in his most famous song.
But for the naysayers who think that the journals have little worth beyond being a pacifier for weepy fans who've been mourning Cobain since he killed himself at the age of 27, I'd like to say: You clearly don't know Cobain the writer.
Cobain the writer is funny and self-aware and snotty, with a knack for off-the-cuff profundity. Remarking to a friend that his band will be called Nirvana, he scribbles next to it the gleeful words: ooh, eerie mystical doom.
He also jokingly refers to himself as the moody, bohemian member of the group, which is pretty much how most folks remember the man behind that amazing, ulcerous voice.
Better still, there's a trashy, throwaway quality to the pages that makes them a lighter read than you'd expect, like you've accidentally Googled your way onto someone's blog.
Page after page of Cobain's terrible handwriting is reproduced in faithful facsimile, covering such topics as forthcoming gigs, favorite songs, prophecies of fame, janitorial wages and, of course, the firing of terrible drummers, complete with gory sketches to drive home his point.
What isn't present here, for better or for worse, are hyper-confessional entries that can be used to further dissect why Cobain took his own life.
Even in ranting about drug abuse and the pressures of stardom, he comes across as a smirky young man who appreciates his luck and can see the comedy of having turned into a national icon.
Novelists get to say plenty in their massive tomes. Rock singers, they only get four-minute songs with two verses and a chorus worth of lyrics. And so there's a real pleasure in accessing the intelligence behind the music, even if it doesn't qualify as great literature.
And hey, I'm not the only one who thinks that the journals are better than mere DVD extras. Just ask the poor publisher who had to pony up $4 million for a bunch of chicken scrawl.
(Soundbite of music)
NORRIS: Karan Mahajan is the author of the novel "Family Planning." His pick for our book series, "My Guilty Pleasure," where authors recommend a book they're embarrassed to love, is the journals of Kurt Cobain. For more summer book stories, interviews, reviews and commentary or to comment on this essay, go to npr.org.
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