Friday, August 12, 2016

Book 37: Yes Please


"My phone is trying to kill me. It is a battery-powered rectangle of disappointment and possibility. It is a technological pacifier. I keep it beside me to make me feel less alone, unless I feel like making myself feel lonely. It can make me feel connected and unloved, ugly and important, sad and vindicated."

Dates read: March 28-30, 2016

Rating: 6/10

There is a line, I think, between knowing your own mind and being open to new experiences. If I'm being honest with myself, I'd say that I fall a bit too far on the "knowing your own mind" side of that line. I'm a person with strongly felt and sharply defined likes and dislikes. It is very rare that if you present me with an idea and ask me how I feel about it, that I shrug and say "dunno". Part of this is just who I am as a human, but I know that there's room to make more of an effort to let myself try something a few times before I decide if it's the actual best or the actual worst.

That being said, this book unfortunately reinforces my already settled mindset that I've told you about before: I just don't care for comedian memoir-essay books. I'll admit that I've always thought of author Amy Poehler as the less funny part of Tina 'n Amy, but once I started watching Parks & Recreation, I got a lot fonder of Amy. Her Leslie Knope is the first time I've watched a character onscreen and felt like I was seeing someone like me up there. Not physically, the only thing Amy/Leslie and I share there is being short. But the optimism, the determination, the gravitation towards politics...she's a great character and one that's honestly been kind of a role model to me.

So I really wish that I could tell you that Yes Please is an amazing book filled with wit and wisdom that you should rush out and acquire a copy of it right now. But that wouldn't be right, because it's actually an enjoyable enough but pretty standard-issue famous-funny-person-writes-a-bunch-of-essays-about-their-life-and-how-they-got-where-they-are. Amy recounts a very prosaic childhood outside of Boston in solidly middle-class comfort, where she made up stories to add drama to her life. She talks about her time in comedy, starting in Chicago and meeting Tina Fey (their friendship is not especially highlighted, she actually ends up talking more about her bond with Seth Meyers), working on Saturday Night Live, and some of her triumphs and missteps along the way. She talks about Parks & Rec (the book was written between the sixth and seventh/final season of the show) and how much she loves being a part of it. She doesn't talk much about her then-fresh divorce from Will Arnett, but she does talk about being pregnant and becoming a mother at length. Which makes sense, she has two small boys and clearly loves them like crazy. Basically, she just talks about her life.

It's written with warmth and an enjoyably humorous tone, but none of it is especially fresh or revelatory. Part of me wants to believe that you can write a compelling memoir of a more-or-less normalish life without having to relate giant obstacles you've managed to overcome or outrageous things you've gotten up to in your youth, but the available evidence that I've come across suggests otherwise. Amy Poehler has obviously achieved tremendous success, but the way she describes her days of being young and dead broke focus so little on that and so much on the sheer enjoyment she got out of building her comedy career that it hardly seems like she struggled much on her way up the ladder. Which is great, on the one hand. She doesn't try to engineer specious complications, she never pretends that she didn't party and have fun while she was also working her tail off, and it was clearly hard work that led her to the opportunities that she's taken and run with and that have paid off so well for her. But on the other hand, her completely understandable refusal to really get into what seems like her most challenging experience (her divorce) makes it so the book has no dramatic tension. Fundamentally decent person works hard and capitalizes on opportunities she was fortunate enough to have access to and prospers is just not a story that really goes anywhere, interest-wise. If you're a Poehler superfan, you'll love it, but it didn't do much of anything for me.

Tell me, blog friends...what TV character have you seen yourself in?

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