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"Kurt Cobain Was Lactose Intolerant Conspiracy Zine" / by Emma Behnke

I first discovered the Kurt Cobain Was Lactose Intolerant Conspiracy Zine while sifting through the Papercut Zine Library’s “miscellaneous” collection. First published in 1998, this particular zine is stored in Barnard’s library as well as our own, and if my research is correct, can be purchased from the author herself on Etsy. The first page of the zine states "Courtney didn't kill Kurt. Milk did." (In the spirit of full-disclosure, I feel that I should admit that like the author of this zine, I happen to be a die-hard Courtney supporter. Also, who doesn’t love a good conspiracy theory?) The writer of the zine proposes a toast to the venerable Cobain, saying, 

"I heard your screams, Kurt, but it was too late. / I raise my glass of chocolate rice milk and salute you. / You will not be forgotten."

After a history of Kurt's lactose intolerance, including quotes from the man himself that detail the excruciating stomach pains he dealt with on a daily basis -- many believe that he used heroin as a painkiller -- the writer then launches fearlessly into an analysis of the song "Scentless Apprentice." 

"The mother figures (‘wet nurses’) refuse to feed him because he is so strange,” the zine goes. “Therefore, not only is he denied coagulated milk products like butter, he is denied nature's milk, breast milk, which makes him even more isolated from the rest of humanity. This also sets him up as an individual without female contact—not even the women whose job it was to feed him care to touch him. This can be read as Kurt's family problems and his fear of abandonment by his own mother."

The writer goes on to suggest that it is this fascination with the female, or mother figure that led Kurt to be attracted to strong feminist figures, and also played into his tendencies to dress up in women's clothes. This analysis is exactly why I love the zine: it manages to be hilarious and yet insightful, like that kid in everyone's Philosophy 101 seminar who would bullshit all their papers and still manage to get an A. 

Through the tongue in cheek humor, the thesis touches on something real—something I've always been fascinated by. I've historically been put off by Nirvana, because in my mind, it's just too overwhelmingly aggressive and masculine. What I didn't realize until recently is how many of the lyrics deal with femininity. There's a desperate desire for the maternal form, and an obsession with female sexuality. (See "Paper Cuts," "Negative Creep," "Milk It," "Pennyroyal Tea," among others.) Many of Nirvanas's songs deal with the torture that gender can create and the effusive wanting to be someone else for a day, for a time. The need to be touched, and yet repulsed and injured by those relations. It's the feeling of being hit in the gut, like a bad stomachache. (Interestingly enough, a lot of Courtney Love's lyrics have similar themes.) 

The zine finishes up with an analysis of “About A Girl,” alternate title “About A Piece of String Cheese,” and some well-played Ren & Stimpy references. If any more proof was needed that Kurt in fact did have lactose intolerance, our devoted author provides the following lyrics to “Pennyroyal Tea” as an example: I’m on warm milk and laxatives, cherry-flavored antacids. It's nice to find a zine that takes a well-worn cultural icon like Kurt Cobain, and creates a final product that is both facetious and insightful. It’s a reminder that though zines can be used to discuss intense topics such as sexual assault, body image, and queer/trans identity struggles—they can also be a fantastic vehicle for off-kilter comedy.

Though the format of the K.C.W.L.I.C.Z. seems to be a mockery of research papers in traditional academia, the actual amount of investigation the author did into lyrics, quotes, and personal stories is impressive.

Who knows, perhaps Daiya and a glass of almond milk could have saved the life of one of rock music’s most tragic figures?

The Media's Zine Reviews column is collaboratively written by the librarian collective at Papercut Zine Library. Papercut Zine Library loosely defines a zine as "an underground publication that is independently produced and self-published, typically photocopied," adding that "people make zines out if a desire to share stories, knowledge, thoughts, opinions, and experiences. Zines are made for love, not for profit." Currently located inside of Lorem Ipsum Books in Cambridge, Papercut is a lending library of over 14,000 zines, independent newspapers, magazines, and more, run by a non-hierarchical collective of volunteer librarians. It has been operating since March 2005. If you’re intrigued enough to read the whole zine reviewed here, dig up a copy at 1299 Cambridge Street in Inman Square.

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