Egghead, or You Can’t Survive on Ideas Alone by Bo Burnham
I’m going to start this off by saying two things. 1st, I really enjoyed this book. 2nd, I have not written a book report since high school… sooooooooo, this will be a learning experience for all of us!
There are a lot of different themes that Bo Burnham touches on in Egghead, some serious, some less than serious to put it mildly. His poems range from deeply profound meditations on death, to complete absurdity. Many times he blends the absurd with the profound, and I found myself laughing but I was not really sure why. I’ve broken down some of the themes in Egghead into the following: Death, love, absurd word play, and the illustrations.
Death seems to be the over arching theme of Egghead. Almost every poem could speak to this theme of death, or more specifically, the fleeting nature of life. If you are familiar with Bo Burnham’s other work, this should come as no surprise to you.
This approach to the subject of death is always a clever one. Hitting the reader over the head with talk of death can be jarring, and ultimately boring. “We get it, we’re going to die some day, tell me something I don’t know.”
What Bo does in Egghead is not make a simple proclamation of death, but a subtle allusion to the fact that youth is fleeting, and therefore, life is fleeting as well. However, he does approach death in an overt manner as well, especially when you take into consideration the illustrations that accompany the poems.
This poem also demonstrates another, almost equally important theme that runs through the book, love.
In Egghead, Bo Burnham talks extensively about love, sex, relationships, and all that other crap that comes with human relationships. The above poem “Us” speaks to the idea that relationships require commitment, but there is a limit too.
One could almost make the argument that Bo is subtly implying that the relationship is what led to the inevitable death of the subjects. Hence why the character wants their “alone time.” However, it additionally implies the eternal nature of love.
This was by far the sweetest poem to come from Egghead. I love the way that he was able to take what seems to be a negative characteristic, his cynicism, and turn it around to an incredible compliment. This poem captures the image of love that Bo was trying to display in this book.
Love is complicated. It can show itself in as many different ways as there are people in love. This poem illustrates that perfectly, and subtly. The drawing on the opposite page sealed the whole scene entirely too.
It makes the reader feel as though this poem came from a real event in life, and this image lends itself to that idea. It is an excellent way of bridging the reader/writer gap, and lets you see the world through Bo Burnham’s eyes.
Absurd word play
A review of Egghead would not be complete with out talking about the absolutely off the wall, brilliant word play that is the hallmark of Bo Burnham’s style.
This poem in particular betrays Bo Burnham’s incredible wit when it comes to words. The concept that flavors this poem is one that is easy to grasp on the surface. A monster that eats words? Got it! It is not until you chew into the poem a little deeper that the meaning becomes blurred and soured.
The question I have is this, “is the monster that eats words Bo Burnham?” This would seem the obvious answer, but he begins by saying “I gobble the words you make.” This would imply that we the audience is the monster. This interpretation could speak to the way Bo sees his fame. Perhaps, the fans, the press, etc. are the word devouring monster, we are literally eating up whatever he says. It brings this poem to a much deeper place.
Or maybe he intended to be a silly, concept poem? I could be reading to deeply into it. But having that specific quality of possible complexity balanced against absurdity for it own sake, is what I find so compelling about Egghead.
I was truly blown away by the illustrations that populate this book. It is not that they are overly intricate or mind blowing in their beauty, but the fact that they perfectly match the sentiment of the poems they are for.
They serve as perfect accents when they need to be, yet they are the focal points as well.
Chance Bone was the illustrator, and if I were to have one criticism of the book, I would say that his credit is not featured prominently enough. Not that I think that he was slighted though, only that he should have slapped a John Hancock style signature on a few drawings.
This is a fantastic book, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves poems or poetry. It is not without flaw though. Some of the poems are a bit on the short side. For instance, “Fuck, Ah Fuck”, consists of three words, “Fuck, ah fuck.”
For fans of Bo Burnham, he has delivered yet again with Egghead, and for the world at large he has shown that he is much more than a funny kid who makes silly youtube videos. Bo Burnham has proven with Egghead that he is commentator of our time. Insightful, witty, and poignant, Bo is a fierce critic of the modernity we now live in, and I for one am excited to see what he will produce in the future.