A friend of mine, Ailbhe, when she was moving to Canada, passed on a few books that she didn’t want to lug halfway around the world. I picked up a couple of non-fiction books that I’ve been slowly working my way through – Girl Up, Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies, I Lick My Cheese, and now this, the last on the list, Yes Please by Amy Poehler. It’s rare that I manage to actually read every book out of a group – ever since I was tiny, I used to read nine out of the ten books in a boxset, or manage to lose the final book in a series. It took me almost ten years to read the entire chronicles of Narnia. So I’m pretty proud of myself that I managed to read everything I took from Ailbhe! Go me!
In a perfect world, we’d all be friends with Amy Poehler. Unfortunately, she’s busy being a Golden Globe-winning actress, a producer, a director, frequent acting double for Meryl Streep and mother to two young sons, so isn’t available for movie nights.
Luckily, we have the next best thing: Yes Please, Amy’s hilarious and candid book, offering her thoughts on everything from her childhood to Hollywood, and from the demon that looks back at all of us in the mirror to her joy at being told she has ‘a face for wigs’. A delight on every page, Yes Please is chock-full of words, and wisdom, to live by.
I had very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand it was full of humour and wisdom, beautifully presented, very entertaining to read, and quite interesting. But on the other hand, it felt like the book was written for someone who is already familiar with every aspect of Poehler’s career (which I’m not), so reading it felt, for me, like an entire book of ‘you know X, of course. Oh, you don’t know X? Well.’ followed by judgemental looks.
This is a strange book. It’s not a comedy book – although there are elements of humour in it, it’s definitely not written to be funny. It’s not structured to lead up to a punchline. It’s also not a memoir, really – although it talks about Poehler’s career and life and children, it is most definitely not a memoir. Most notably, her divorce, although mentioned several times, is not discussed at all. And that, really, would be a pretty big part of a memoir. It’s not a book about comedy either – there’s not much here about how Poehler works or what she did to create her cast of SNL characters. Nor is it a self-help book – it’s not designed to be a model for other people to use in improving their lives. That said, though, I think lots of people could use parts of it to improve their lives, as it’s full of some really interesting stuff.
I don’t know what this book is, though. It feels a little like sitting down with an old friend who you haven’t seen in years, but who you’ve been following on facebook, while she catches you up on the edited highlights of her life, peppered with anecdotes and allusions to people and things you must know, because you have her on facebook, right?
I can imagine that this would be a really brilliant experience for many people. But it really wasn’t for me. A collection of musings on relatively disparate topics can be quite enjoyable, but this book lacked any kind of … purpose, as far as I could see. And if I were more interested in Poehler as a comedian, or had seen more of her work, or if I were reading the book simply because I liked her work and wanted to read more about it, I’m sure there would be a lot for me to enjoy.
But that’s not who I am. I am, at best, mildly interested in Poehler’s work, and I read it largely because a) a friend was trying to get rid of it and b) I heard it was quite a fun and feminist read. Which, okay, b) was true, but it’s not the main point of the book.
So although this book was most definitely not for me, I did still enjoy it (although I did have to stop every few pages to google a person or a thing, knowledge of which was just assumed), but certainly not as much as I’m sure some people have. A little more familiarity with Poehler’s work required to truly appreciate this.