Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ode To Happiness - A Review In Pictures

A surprise was waiting for me when I got home from visiting my brother and his wife in New York today. Ode to Happiness - the highly-anticipated-by-me Keanu Reeves poetry book - was here!

I wasn't expecting this book to arrive for another 2-4 weeks. Apparently Amazon's shipping schedule is not to be trusted! The book itself isn't really a book. More like watercolor paper that is folded in half and sewn together, placed inside a hardcover (cardboard and fabric) sleeve. But I was so excited to see it that I couldn't restrain myself and spent some time unabashedly hugging it.....
... and kissing it...

After the mini-lovefest ended, I sat myself down to take a peek inside and see just what kind of poet Keanu is. Would it be heady, intellectual stuff? Playful, sexy stuff? Abstract, impressionable stuff? I crack the cover page and....
...Heyyyy! Wait a minute. Wait. Just. One. Minute. Here. Is this it? Is this really it? REALLY? You're kidding. You are kidding me.. right? This can't really be it. I don't believe it.

While there is nothing wrong with drawing a hot sorrow bath... this is not what I was expecting. Not by a long shot! I was imagining gorgeous paintings and heady, intellectual, heartbreaking poems. POEMS. As in multiple poems. As in lots of words on lots of pages. But the more I turn the page, the more I see it is just like that first page. Each displaying one big bleeding childish watercolor with 5 - 7 words beneath it...

I admit I let my frustration and high expectations get the best of me for just a moment. I wanted to inflict pain on Ode to Happiness. I am not proud of this, but I bit him. I wanted to tear the stitching from his pages and send him fluttering across the floor so that, instead, he would become an Ode to My Unhappiness...

..But then the violence slowly left me and I realized that it wasn't Keanu's fault, or the poor little poetry book's fault. It was my own fault for getting so worked up about it in the first place. I took the book's blurb too seriously, I created unreasonable expectations. Expectations that the book and it's author could never truly live up to. So I can't really blame them, you know.

And I can give the friggen thing 5 stars for working a fucking amazing blurb out of so little actual content and getting me to fork over 36 bucks based on the fact that I'm a sucker:
"*Ode to Happiness is a grown-up's picture book, a charming reminder not to take oneself too seriously. With drawings by painter Alexandra Grant, text by actor Keanu Reeves, and in collaboration with mutual friend Janey Bergam, this facsimile artists' book is about making the best of a bad situation. In the tradition of a classic "hurtin' song", Reeves' text externalizes a melancholy internal monologue and subtly pokes fun at it. Grant's images, delicately realised in sombre inky washes, reflect the dark and light, the pathos and humour of the text. Neither entirely earnest nor wholly ironic, Ode to Happiness is both a meditation and a gentle tease about how we cope with life's sorrows."

Gentle Tease... Ha!

*blurb credit goes to Goodreads


  1. Wow Lori. You review had me laughing, but inside I'm furious that crap like this can still find a publisher while real writers--you know, people who put words together in order to convery meaning and elicit emotion--are left to stuff their unpublished manuscripts in drawers. I know, I know, it's all about the market, but come on...

  2. This was a really good way of handling a less-than-favorable review. I would have been massively disappointed, and I probably would have written one of my open letters, which may not have been so "gentle"

  3. OK, so that was absolutely hilarious! But I have one question... does the blurb actually have more words in it than the book???? You know you have to give us a count!

  4. Dave, I'm glad I could create some laughter in your day. I sure needed some before I wrote the review :) It's also proof that celebs can basically do ANYTHING and it'll be picked up by SOMEONE and labeled ART and sell for a SHIT TON of money because DOO DOO's like ME will run out and BUY it :)

    Cassandra, I wanted to be fair, and I realized that it was my own dang fault for getting so hung up on what I WANTED the poetry book to be that it never stood a chance... I couldn't fault Keanu or even the publisher for that, not really. You know?

    Tara, haha! The blurb is 3 times as long as the poem. Yup, I said poem. The entire book is one poem. *sigh* Want me to bring it on Saturday so you can make fun of me???


    I draw a hot sorrow bath

    Washboard Traitor How!

    Aboard Wraith Ho Worst!

    It's NOT Happiness!!! It's the END OF TIMES or A Tabor Toward Whorish

  6. Your review cracked me out:))You actually bit the book?!LOL!But I have to say,if you read some reviews or interviews of the K-man before buying it,it won't be such a disappointment for you. At the Guardian interview
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2011/jun/15/keanu-reeves-ode-to-happiness)Keanu himself admits that Ode to Happiness was born out of a joke between friends,imo it was never his intention to write the next best American novel,if it was up to him there would be no book at all, but his friends got involved and he got encouraged to publish and I'm glad he did,it may not be a masterpiece but it made me smile :))

    He also attended a book launch in London and it was funny!The book might be a disappointment but I hope you enjoy the book launch video:


  7. Anonymous, Thank you for those links. I did know that the book was a joke in reply to that silly photo that spread like wildfire on the internet begging Keanu to smile, but I was just so disappointed in the product itself.

    I am happy that I own a very limited edition release of a personal joke between a famous movie star and his friends, but sad that it is not something I can go back to again and again and mull over and dissect... you know?

  8. Funny review! I also hugged the book when it arrived :)) and I agree they should have said that it is just one poem not a collection of poems, by the way, even if it is not what you call high literature, Ode to Happiness certainly has its charm, have you ever tried giving the book to a friend who has a sh*tty day? That might be one good use of the book, I did read it to my friend when she was feeling a bit down and it worked!

  9. I think there's more to it than just a simple book. It is intended to be meditative...I would hate it if i bought it 2 years ago..but now I understand....to be happy you have to live slowly...no expectation....think simply...just like the book! what a genius!

  10. I have read the book. I found it incredible, however little too short. It gives a great account of complexity in the way the simplest and most complex ideas and meanings can share the same room. I also psychoanalyzed the concept which led me to the conclusion that the context of the book is very simple however when you look behind the meanings it gives you this phenomenological dual feeling and a great freedom of choice without bracketing ( questioning Husserl' studies).

  11. I feel like I would want my money back, but I also took a conceptual lit class in grad school and know some people would take this book very seriously!