Ryan Adams released a book of poems called Infinity Blues. It is horrific! Adams is not known for his filter – 190 albums in 4 weeks – and while people can praise his honest, direct approach to lyrics with songs like Come Pick Me Up and Oh My Sweet Carolina, those same people better have their filter on when sorting through this rubbish. Just when you think Adams has sorted out his shit (or left it out) he’s off covering Taylor Swift on a whim.
The book was released back after an early glut of albums and it’s 286 pages long. Last time I checked, unless you are Charles Bukowski there is no reason to be releasing 200+ pages of poetry at a time. And Bukowski of course has his detractors, but it’s not so much Buk that was the problem but rather the followers who figured that his detailing of the everyday minutiae was simple enough and easy to emulate. Among them we must now count Mr Adams.
One of the best things about Infinity Blues is the title. And the cover – and neither is especially stunning. Oh, the other good thing about this book is I have read it so you don’t have to.
I am a survivor of Billy Corgan’s Blinking With Fists which I once assumed to be the worst book ever written. But actually Jeff Tweedy writers far worse poetry than Billy Corgan. But Billy Corgan seemed like Billy Collins when I got reading Ryan Adams. When I look back now, the summer reading this seemed to last forever, I think I’d be better off reading the poetry of Bryan Adams.
The worrying thing with Adams’ foray in to the literary world – beyond the expected hagiography from rabid fans who loved songs like Come Pick Me Up and Oh My Sweet Carolina so figure that Ryan does confessional writing well – is that he is attacking it with the same fervour and incorrigible zest as he did making records. A second volume followed this altogether too swiftly.
You can turn to almost any page in Infinity Blues and be a) instantly confused and b) subsequently baffled into embarrassed laughter.
Let me provide some examples:
Page 125: oh my mouth won’t say your name
it says ( )
in a chest
a sea could digest
or Page 185: i have a face burnt in my eyes
i have a face burnt into my hand
i have a heart
or what is left of one
a rolling desert
f**ked white with sand
How about Page 51: i rely on you
and a soft gang of unicorns
to help me find that strange thing –
that strange valley
i find it so hard to imagine
In case you don’t believe I randomly selected those, er, nuggets, we’ll look at some titles next:
Home Safe – Heartsickness
Million-Year F**k-Face Convention
I Shot The Lights Out Too
Wow, I’m Insane
Anxiety And Hope
Writing, Dying, for the Trying
I Am One Of Those
The Whole Universe Is God’s S**thole Apartment Complex
Real F**king Dreams Come True
and – sadly – there are so many more, roughly another 100. The final poem in the collection is called: Dreams, God, Albert and Disappointment.
My hope is that even Ryan Adams fans had a groan. Or did what I couldn’t do – simply ignored it. This book is ridiculous. It’s almost entirely written in first-person (as Ryan) as Ryan dissects himself…
The only thing sadder is that I read the whole thing.
I was fossicking around at the store where so many good, new books always are. And I am a total sucker. I saw the Ryan Adams book and figured I should buy it. I knew of course that I shouldn’t!
A mate was looking through the books with me and I pointed that out. He is more of a Ryan Adams fan than I am (and I still consider myself a fan of his best music, definitely) and he said “I’m going to come back and buy that. And read it. And hate it!”
Well I beat him to all three. And, again unsurprisingly, it did not feel good.
Ryan even has a poem called i hate myself – he will not be alone if there’s a team of us that cross this literary finish line. And the final word in the book is ‘disappointment’.
That has to be some kind of sign.
I have a new respect for what Jewel attempted.
This book makes no sense. And it only exists because Ryan Adams has had some success as a musician.
Poetry has a bad enough name as it is without (hip) musicians adding to it…