Artificial Light

Artificial Light is a story that takes form in twenty-one notebooks about a rock star named Kurt C (not to be confused with the actual Journals by Kurt Cobain). Written by former Spin Magazine editor James Greer, it’s one of the first American novels to treat the 90s alternative rock scene as a subject for serious literature. Lodged somewhere between a stunning work of art, like Gus Van Sant’s film Last Days, and the haunting documentary Kurt & Courtney, this book has some art, some conspiracy and some confessions. It’s narrated by the curious Fiat Lux, a librarian from Ohio, who mysteriously disappears after the tragic death of the rising rock legend. What makes Fiat’s studied observations worthwhile is her friendship with the somber Kurt C who lives in a nearby mansion. Fiat, both an insider and outsider in Kurt C’s life, holds the secrets of his untimely death in 1994. Unfortunately, she reveals exactly how Kurt C died halfway through the book–a pity considering that’s the most compelling storyline. Yet Greer’s use of language and tone compelled me to keep reading. Greer’s words read like a guilty confession more than a tacky tell-all book about a dead and sorely missed rock star. I’m glad Greer took that route. He could have easily taken the latter–a former bassist for Guided By Voices and Kim Deal’s husband, Greer knew Kurt Cobain and was in Seattle when he died–but Artificial Light is undisputedly fiction, despite borrowing names for the sake of mythological references. The low and hushed voices that tell the story resonate, reminding me of the American writer Jeffrey Eugenides. It’s the kind of voice that can make you laugh despite the fact that you know a bad ending is inevitable. (Erin Kobayashi)

by James Greer, $15.95, 336 pgs, Akashic Books, PO Box 1456, New York, NY, 10009, akashicbooks.com


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