Skip to main content

Serving The Servant Review


Serving the Servant by Danny Goldberg
Overall: 5
This is a biography about Kurt Cobain written by his former manager Danny Goldberg. I decided I'd give it a shot because I really enjoyed Me Elton John which I'd read last year, and I'd recently seen clips of Nirvana's MTV unplugged in a music documentary and was intrigued. Like with Elton John, I knew the basic details about Kurt Cobain before I started the book, but, beyond that, I had no clue what to expect. I'm actually listening to Nevermind for the fist time as I write this (though the more I listen the more I feel like I've heard a lot of it before without realizing it).
Anyway, I was immediately sucked into the book. It captured my attention in a way that nothing had been able to for almost a solid month. I really like Danny Goldberg's writing style. It's extremely conversational and makes the reader feel like part of the story or the discussion. He's telling Kurt and Nirvana's story, but he's telling his own first and foremost which sets the book in an interesting position both in a point of view and an objectivity sense.
You can tell immediately that even though Kurt and Danny started as business partners, they became like family, and, of course, that's going to color your recollection of a subject. Especially when it's someone who is gone who meant to world to you. Yes, I'm sure that the book is biased to put Kurt in the best light even in his worst moments, and there are pieces where you can feel Goldberg getting defensive, but I don't think that makes for a less accurate or compelling portrait. I've never read anything else about Kurt book or article wise so I don't really know thee story from any other angle, but I'm almost glad that I heard it this way first. I'd never read a biography written by someone close to the person, and I actually think it's a really great prospective to write a biography from. It provides the aspects of humanization and gives personal anecdotes that you'd get from an autobiography, but it also has an extra layer of commentary that you couldn't give as the person living it. Goldberg does an incredible job of contextualizing the whirlwind situation he lived in and giving his take on events as an outsider. I also just really appreciated his general stance through the whole books that life unfolds the way it does for a reason, and you're not really going to stop and change that. Especially when telling the story later. He doesn't seem to be a what if kind of person. Goldberg carries a level of respect through the whole book that makes it feel right when discussing the life of someone so used and spun by the media.
The way that Goldberg tells the story, every chapter is sorta centered around a major subject or event in each time period or phase. It sometimes means that timelines jumped around in different chapters, but, mostly, it moved forward in an easily understandable way that did a good job of emphasizing major events or parts of Kurt that Goldberg wanted everyone to take notice of. Most of these traits were recurring themes through his life. Again, as someone who knew nothing going in and coming from someone who reads and writes fiction, Goldberg does an impeccable job of building his character to be as multifaceted and compelling as he was in real life, which is no easy feat. He painted the picture of a guy who walked a lot of fine lines. Who engaged with music in an open minded way and never got caught in the common stiff genre lines or in the indie vs mainstream label issue. He was just going to make the art that he wanted to make and everyone else could shut up. But he was also extremely politically progressive, loudly a feminist and LGBTQ rights advocate as well as someone comfortable playing with the line between masculine and feminine. Someone who pushed back against harmful stereotypes that permeated music as a whole. It went with the just doing me attitude that runs through the whole book and every decision made. There's also tons of instances of walking contradictions. Smoking but telling the kid who walked up to him in the street not to. Wanting to keep his heroin use out of the media less for his own image and more because he didn't want teens thinking it was cool because he did it. Changing the album art for In Utero and compromising his artistic vision so that Walmart would carry it and it would be accessible to more teens. The little anecdotes make the intentionality of every action extremely clear. While the book emphasizes the best parts of Kurt and sorta downplays the addiction and more negative clashes with the media and paranoia, I don't think that's a totally bad thing. It's easy to picture an addict in your head. Everyone knows the negative side of that and how much pain and damage it causes, and, so often, how someone's life ends or the worst of their struggles becomes their story more than who they were as a person. It's all in there and properly acknowledged cause it happened, but it doesn't shape the story, it doesn't change who he was as a person at his core, and that gets lost in a lot of portrayals.
The book brings to life the kind of reality that would make fame feel like a trap. It illustrates how profoundly the media can effect the lives of celebrities, who, at the end of the day, are just people too. I think that the fame and media coverage are such an important part of the story towards the end that you wouldn't be able to fully grasp the impact and repercussions if it wasn't being told by someone who was right in the middle of it when it happened. Words and judgments have power that people might not even realize at the time when they write them, and that's one of the biggest things that you walk away from the book with.
Another major part of the book is Courtney Love who was Kurt's wife and is still close with Danny Goldberg. She was the lead singer in a band called Hole, and I already liked her music going into this so I guess I was biased to like her, but Goldberg paints another well done picture of someone who had deep flaws but an amazing heart and was dripping in wit and talent. I like that there's a significant focus in the book on the sexism and misogyny Courtney faced in the media for being attached to Kurt and for being an outspoken, unapologetic woman. There's a lot of quotes from Kurt in the book calling it out and a lot of commentary from Goldberg on that front too. I'm glad to see that getting pointed out and called out because it happens so often, even now, in how the press talks about women who make art and especially women who are involved with high profile men.
As final comments on the book itself, I'd say that this is a great read for anyone looking for a story to get lost in. You don't feel like you're reading a biography of someone it's so animated. Goldberg includes tons of quotes from other people in the business close to Kurt, from Courtney, from Krist, and from articles at the time to create a more well rounded picture that also contextualizes what was going on at the time from every angle. If you're not super familiar with the music world or the music business, Goldberg makes it accessible from the start by taking a lot of time at the start to explain the scene dynamic at the beginning, the labels and their relationships, and how the music business works in general. It makes sure you won't get lost, and, if you're like me and are fascinated by how that business works, it's an interesting additional story. I finished the book with a real admiration for who Kurt was as a person, and, even though it all unfolded way before I was even born, I was able to identify with the story and find elements of what draws me to my favorite artists in Kurt. I couldn't put it down.
If you want to hear more about what I learned about Kurt Cobain and Nirvana and Hole's music, I dedicated an episode of my podcast The Empathy Factor to further discussing the book. To listen that that one and our other episodes, check out the webpage here. For a direct link to just the episode, check it out here.

Links of Interest:
Every Other Weekend: Review Here
Into YA with Emma Lord: Here
New Blog Goals: Here
I Got Rid of (Almost) All my Books: Here

Music Musings and Me: Here

Comments

  1. Seems like it is a really great book! Thanks for sharing your thoughts - I'll definitely check this one out.

    Jamie @ Books and Ladders

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Halsey's I Would Leave Me If I Could Poetry Review

  I Would Leave Me If I Could  by Halsey  I've started this review a couple times and scrapped all of them. I've written hundreds of reviews before, and this is the first time I have absolutely no clue how to review a book. It's not just because it's poetry. And it's not because I don't have thoughts on every single poem. I've read the book twice and scrubbed a million notes around her words and highlighted every poem on my second read through. I have so many favorites, and my heart feels like it's going to burst after finishing each poem. Halsey exceeded every expectation I had set to the high bar of her music. I almost feel like this book is too good for my review to remotely do it justice, so I don't even know where to begin.  This book is extremely vulnerable. Halsey has never held back on telling the ugly truth in her lyrics, but the poetry takes it so much farther. She has space to tell the entire story, fewer constraints than what will fit in

Swimming Lessons By Lili Reinhart Poetry Review

  Swimming Lessons  by Lili Reinhart  Overall: 5 This is the first poetry book I've ever read in its entirety outside of Shel Silverstein, so I've checked off one of my reading goals for the year with this one. I've now read a graphic novel and a book of poetry. I've been anticipating Swimming Lessons  so long that I can't believe it's actually in my hands. I've been a fan of Lili since Riverdale, and I've continued to be a fan of hers even when the show got a bit too ridiculous for me to keep watching every week. I've been excited for the chance to get to see something completely created a controlled by Lili.  I'm not sure what I expected from Swimming Lessons . I think I had almost no idea what it would be like or the topics it would cover. After the first couple poems, I was completely hooked. In the intro, Lili prefaces the collection by noting that poetry has always given her solace in knowing other people felt the same specific emotions tha

Perfect on Paper: YA Book Review

  Perfect on Paper  by Sophie Gonzales (2021 Release!) Preorder The Book on Bookshop! Before I get into the review, I'm just so excited to be writing a book review! I hadn't finished a book since the end of September :(. Hopefully that's over now. Anyway... Overview: Darcy is like Hannah Montana. Well, kinda. She's not a secret pop star, but she does have a hidden identity. She's the girl behind Locker 89, home of the best relationship advice in California. Or, at least, at her high school. People drop a letter and $10 in the locker, and Darcy collects them after school when her mom, a teacher there, stays late. This goes perfectly until Brougham catches her. While it's a minor disaster, he has a fascinating Australian accent and some traces of charm, and he ropes Darcy into giving him personal relationship coaching to win back his ex-girlfriend. But maybe he doesn't want his ex-girlfriend back after all? And maybe Darcy could get over her painful crush on h

Together, Apart YA Book Review

  Together, Apart  Anthology  Overall: 4.5 Finally writing a book review again! I read Together Apart  over the weekend, and I really enjoyed it. It's the only mainstream pandemic centric YA book out there (that I know of), which was also super interesting. I'm someone who processes what I'm going through in the moment through other people's work and recounting of experiences and through reading. With the pandemic, there hasn't been that chance. While most people are on the side of reading as escapism and not wanting books to acknowledge the pandemic, I've been craving it, and I want to write it as well (probably never will because everyone is so against it). Books and writing are how I process things. Together, Apart gave me a chance to do that. At a certain point, I think I started reading less because some days it hurt to read about teens on some other timeline living the high school/college life that feels like it's passing me by. So, I will go out on th

Books I'm Looking Forward To: November 2020 (5 YA Books and Poetry!)

Sorry I've been gone so much this month! It's hard to keep up my regular reading schedule with school. The last two weeks, I've been dealing with midterms and finals for different classes, so there's been plenty of extra work. I'm working on getting back to reading so I can share some more reviews with you very soon, but I should be back to regular posting this week.  Since it's almost a new month, I figured it's a good time to get excited about the brand new books that are coming in November and get some last minute preordering done to support these books! This month is a little bit different because I'm including a broader range of titles. I have a couple I've preordered already, some suggested to me on Twitter, a fantasy book I'm considering reading, and a book of poetry that I have wanted for months and months. I can't believe Halsey's book is finally out. In each book feature, there's a preorder button you can click to preorder t

October Wrap Up

  This month has been a journey. I've tried to write this wrap up like 5 times now, and I keep stumbling because, for one, I read almost nothing this month. From a more personal standpoint, this month was the biggest disaster of the year but had some of my favorite moments. Life is annoyingly complicated like that. I hardly remember the beginning of October it was so stressful. I finally bought Halloween decoration, which I've wanted to do for the last year or two. I stuck them around the house to get in the spirit for my favorite holiday instead of hanging them up outside like I normally do. Since I rarely leave, they're way more fun to pass on the way into the kitchen, and I'm going to miss my skeleton dragon and ghoul/skeleton man when Halloween is over.  Mostly, in October, I've felt overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by my life at home, overwhelmed by school, overwhelmed about the million responsibilities I make up for myself, and overwhelmed by feelings of failure aimed

They Wish They Were Us: YA Book Review

  They Wish They Were Us  by Jessica Goodman TW: Murder/Death of a Teen (off page generally), violence, brutal initiation tasks, attempted sexual assault (on page but brief; it gets stopped) Overview: Jill has always felt uneasy about being a Player. She worked hard and endured plenty of initiation torture to win her place among the elite group of high schoolers at Gold Coast Prep, but there's a sick feeling in her stomach as she finally takes her senior crown as one of their leaders. Maybe it was because of the brutal treatment she endured, maybe it was because her best friend Shelia died suspiciously initiation night. A fellow Player, Shelia's boyfriend Graham, got blamed for the murder before the night was over. That should be three years in the past, but a text from Rachel, a former player and Graham's sister stirs up all of Jill's questions again.  Overall: 4 Note: I heard about and read this book because Halsey and Sidney Sweeny will be staring in the adaption of

This Is All Your Fault Blog Tour Stop

  Hi, everybody! Today, I'm a part of a book tour for Turn the Pages Tours letting you know about Aminah Mae Safi's book, This Is All Your Fault . If you've always dreamed about working in a bookstore, this new book will be perfect for you. It's about a group of teen booksellers who have to band together to help save the store. Check out the full  description  down below to get to know the book and learn more about Aminah through her author bio and the links to her social media! If you want to pick up the book right now, I'll leave a link to the book on Bookshop here which helps support the blog because it's an affiliate link, which means the blog might get a small  commission  from your purchase at no extra cost to you. It's a great way to  support  the blog while shopping for books! If you'd rather not shop at Bookshop, here's the general purchase link .  Description:  Set over the course of one day, Aminah Mae Safi's This Is All Your Fault is

Into YA with Kristina Forest

I'm super excited to bring you another edition of Into YA, this time with one of my new favorite YA authors, Kristina Forest. While I'm sure you've already heard about Now That I've Found You , you can get caught up by reading my review here. Thank you to Kristina for taking the time to chat with me, and I hope you enjoy our conversation. If you want to help support the blog, please consider grabbing a copy through my Bookshop affiliate link here .    1. In Now That I Found You, all of your main characters are famous. Evie and her family are huge in the film industry, and love interest, Milo, is on the rise with his band. Did that require extra research to write about for either the music or film industries? It didn’t require much research. I’ve always been interested in old Hollywood and I’m a big fan of movies and music, and I’ve watched dozens of documentaries and/or biopics so I felt pretty prepared to write the story without having to do additional research. 2. Onc

Grown: YA Book Reviews

  Grown  by Tiffany D. Jackson TW: (from the title page of the book) sexual abuse, rape, assault, child abuse, kidnapping, and addiction to opioids  Overview: Enchanted just wants to be a singer. Living in the suburbs, she doesn't know how this will happen until she gets noticed by Korey Fields at an audition. She doesn't make the show, but she gets taken under his wing. She just wants a career, and she wants to be loved, and she wants to be told she's beautiful. Korey does all that and more. He also has money and power- more things Enchanted lacks. She wants to be an adult and take life on, but she's fallen into the hands of an abuser and master manipulator. Coming out the other side leaves Korey dead and Enchanted trying to find her footing. Overall: 5 Characters: 5 All of these characters are extremely vivid. Enchanted is such a good main character. She has confidence and is so smart. But you can see her little vulnerabilities that Korey expertly exploits. It's c