Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Book Review: I Hate Myself and Want to Die

Even though I had a decidedly “meh” reaction to Tom Reynolds’s latest book, Touch Me, I’m Sick, I adore I Hate Myself and Want to Die: The 52 Most Depressing Songs You’ve Ever Heard. It is a book I reread often, and it still makes me laugh out loud (or chuckle quietly to myself if I am reading it in public).

Unlike TMIS, which takes some creative (if not entirely successful) approaches to discussing the songs (i.e. fake journal entries, recreated dialogues, etc.), I Hate Myself and Want to Die’s essays are fairly straightforward, with Reynolds discussing the song’s origins and content as well as dissecting why the song is depressing. This allows Reynolds to focus on the songs, which are all hilariously depressing. From Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” to The Verve Pipe’s “The Freshmen,” Reynolds entertainingly dissects the songs and shows why they are unrelentingly dismal.

Perhaps one of the reasons why I Hate Myself… succeeds where TMIS fails is that (as Reynolds himself notes in TMIS) it is surprisingly easy to think of songs that are depressing, but it is much harder to think of songs that creepy (one person’s idea creepy is another person’s idea of touching). Consequently, I Hate Myself… had a treasure trove of songs to use. It doesn’t hurt that a lot of these songs, such as Melissa Manchester’s “Don’t Cry Out Loud,” in which a circus acts as metaphor for love and life, are actually very funny without any added commentary.

Although Reynolds does have some misfires in this collection (he admits that his analysis of “Brick” by Ben Folds Five is based on a faulty assumption), they are few and far between. While Touch Me, I’m Sick has some laughs, I Hate Myself… is a far superior collection in terms of humor. Read it, if only to enjoy the chapter in which Reynolds completely eviscerates “The Christmas Shoes,” a song I loath beyond almost all comprehension. However, my hatred of that song is a story for another post…