Obituary Birthday: Kurt Cobain’s Art of Suicide


“‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’s’ alternating soft verses and hard chorus perfectly embody the simultaneous hopelessness and exuberance that characterize our extended American adolescence: Cobain’s coincident self-hatred and self-confidence writ large for a generation.”

Pamela Ivinski reconsiders Kurt Cobain’s life, work and death on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of his suicide. By carefully examining his lyrics and journals and then relating them to his troubled family history, she offers an empathetic reading of Cobain’s work that both deepens our appreciation of his genius and establishes our complicity in his compulsion to “burn out rather than fade away.”

Pamela A. Ivinski (1963–2017) was an author, editor, and Senior Research Associate for the Mary Cassatt catalogue raisonné committee. Her articles appeared in Print, Antiques and Fine Art, and publicsfear, the arts zine she cofounded and edited with Tod Lippy from 1992 to 1994. Ivinski was the coauthor of Women Impressionists: Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Eva Gonzalès, Marie Bracquemond (Hatje Cantz, 2008).