The veteran singer/songwriter delivers a memoir as “album liner notes; something extra, informative, and interesting.”
Fans of the self-lacerating, painfully funny Wainwright III will find the memoir they want here. As he writes of his club performances, “often the response I’m going for is a shiver or a cringe. Making an audience uncomfortable for limited amounts of time ratchets up the dramatic tension.” Though he remains perhaps best known for the novelty hit “Dead Skunk,” he remains better loved for material that cuts uncomfortably close to the bone of family dynamics, of his failings as a husband and a father, of his jealousies and rivalries in relationships with his own father (a well-known columnist for Life at its popular peak) and son, Rufus Wainwright, a musical artist who now has a larger and more rapturous following than his father. With a wit that can draw blood and a confessional openness that knows few limits, the author guides readers through his parents’ loveless marriage, his sibling rivalries, his tempestuous marriages and relationships, the tensions of an absentee father, his deeply ambivalent attitude toward success and stardom, and his depressive insecurities. “When I’m not thinking of myself as the greatest singer-songwriter who ever lived,” he writes, “I consider myself to be a talentless fraud.” Many of the chapters provide fuller context for his autobiographical lyrics, while others reprint some of his favorite columns of his father’s. Wainwright compares himself to those who were “stars in the music business, whereas I was merely a puny asteroid relegated to the far periphery of the rock and roll galaxy.” Yet those who have followed his career for decades—“Loud Heads,” he calls them—will delight in how much more they can learn about a songwriter who has already revealed so much in his material.
A very funny and candid memoir, in an occasionally cringeworthy sort of way.