The Bjork Journals
A strange package arrived at the Spin office bearing a book that may alter the course of history as we know it
By: Chuck KlostermanA strange package arrived at the Spin office bearing abook that may alter the course of history as we know it
To see the living words of those who have left our world is a chilling experience. It is as chilling as seeing the corpse of a Rwandan refugee; it is as chilling as watching the torture of a blind Dalmatian puppy; it is as chilling as forgetting your sweateron a day that is literally chilly. A diary of the dead is a metaphorical kick in the emotional jowls. That’s why a recently released book has so shaken our collective bones. It’s a book that captures both the power of music and the fragility of human existence. It is atestament to the majesty of rock, the grit of the grave, and all that falls betwixt.
I am (of course) referring to Björk: The Journals.
Oh, there were those in the literary community who questioned the posthumous release of Björk: The Journals (Sugarcube Books, $29.95), partially because of its content but mostly because Björk is not dead. However, I personally pushed for the publication of these manuscripts, and my reasoning was twofold. First of all, Björk is more than a disposable woodland sprite–rock critics consistently classify Björk as “The Voice of a Generation (of Elves).” But that is only half the equation. The deeper issue is that I deserve financialcompensation for having dated Björk from October 1991 (when supposedly we had sex at a Days Inn in Chicago) until April 5, 1994 (when our relationship ended abruptly in a Seattle greenhouse, although I can’t recall why).
Björk’s privacy will not be exposed without justification (royalties from the sale of this manuscript will allow me to purchase ahovercraft). But you know what–even if I weren’t receiving 15 percent of the revenue from the unnecessary publication of Björk’s private thoughts, I would still make the following statement: These journals are awesome. These are not just words on paper–these are handwrittenwords on paper that are photocopies of handwritten words from Mead notebooks, which makes them “difficult to read” and therefore “fascinating.”
Björk: The Journals also includes rudimentary freehand drawings that the Icelandic über-star made when she was bored, including (but not limited to) a herd of zebras that vaguely resemble rabbits, a portrait of what she assumed Margaret Sanger probably looked like, andinvisible 3-D cubes. Yet those sketches are just window dressing; it’s ultimately the incendiary, interior thoughts of Björk–those seminal fragments of her own personal zeitgeist–that make The Journals so eminently readable. Take page 64, where we glimpse a disturbing llustration of how society warps the feminine self-image:
When I look into the smiling face of my audience, I feel that I am lying. I go furious! But even within lies, there is truth. I am like a polar bear, but I am not a polar bear. But am I not NOT a polar bear? True!
Shocking? Probably. Transcendent? Perhaps. But more than anything else, Björk: The Journals offers a portal into the artistic Björk-ian worldview. On page 119, we get Björk’s explanation as to why she attacked a journalist at the Bangkok airport in 1996–and learn about how she felt when a crazed American fan tried to mail her a bomb that same year:
What is the meaning of madness? I pounce on a newswoman after floating through space, and this I regret. But what is next? A person huntertries to explode me? I am like the hated polar bear, hiding on the ice float where hiding is impossible.
Clearly, this shit is trenchant. But for every moment of darkness, there is one of luminosity. On page 225, readers can see one of Björk’s playful “lists,” arguably the sharpest sightline into her influences:
These are my favorite names for polar bears:
Sinister Funkhouse 19
Lars von Trier
Don’t you see why this stuff is so important? Don’t you see why it’s absolutely necessary to mass-market a pop star’s random thoughts, most of which were never intended to be seen by anyone? Is there any better way to understand the portrait of the artist than bylooking at whatever she (or he) used to scribble when they were 19 years old and riding the city bus around Reykjavík (or, for that matter, Olympia)? And all for only $29.95! Just think: You can get someone’s mostly vapid–yet still totally private–thoughts for less than $30. That’s less than the cost of three flannel shirts (or two boxes of shotgun shells).