Friday, December 12, 2014

Yes And No

I liked Amy Poehler's work before I knew who she was.  She had a regular gig on Conan O'Brien's show as Andy Richter's kid sister who had a thing for Conan.  She wore head gear and had a shy smile (before she'd get mad at Andy for blowing her cover). It was a good bit.

A little later I knew her as the only female in the Upright Citizen's Brigade, a comedy troupe with a show on Comedy Central.  After that she was a regular on Saturday Night Live.  After that, she starred, and still stars, in the NBC sitcom Parks And Recreation, not to mention appearing in films like Mean Girls, Hamlet 2 and Baby Mama.  Overall, she's done consistently good work.

And now she has a book out, a bestseller entitled Yes Please.  Women on TV or in comedy publishing books about themselves have become a major trend.   I think it started with Tina Fey's Bossypants, a huge success and the gold standard in this genre.  Since then there's been books by Mindy Kaling, Lena Dunham and others.  I don't think Poehler's is as good as Fey's (these are the only two books I've read in this field), but I suppose it'll do.

These books are a mix of autobiography and observations on life.  As you might guess, I prefer the former and read quickly through the latter.  Though I think the audiences for these books (which I'm guessing are mostly female) may feel the opposite.

Poehler starts her book complaining about how hard it is to write a book. (She even has others write or co-write some of her chapters).  Yes, I'm sure it's very difficult, but so what?  There are a lot of authors who work just as hard and toil in obscurity, so I could do without the whining.

She does tell her life story, but it's in bits and pieces throughout the book, and not generally in order.  How many times must I say this--chronology is our friend.  Even if you think it's cool to put this chapter here because it feels right, most of the time (whether it's an autobiography or a "memoir") please put the earliest stuff first, and work your way to the present, just to make the book easier to follow.

I liked the stuff about her career, and wish there was more.  Instead, we get chapters about stuff like body image and feelings of shame the meaning of charity and how computers have changed out lives.  Perhaps this is very meaningful for Poehler and most of her readers, but for me a little of it goes a long way.  Poehler also mentions a surprising amount of stuff that annoys her.  Enough that you wonder if she isn't sort of annoying herself.

So a mild thumbs up.  The book is a bestseller, so I guess she did it right.

PS  It's published on thick, glossy paper. I assume this is because the book is salted with photos and other illustrations that require a particular surface.  But it sure makes the book heavy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

These books are about humor whether they are about the comedian's life or thoughts on the world. I loved Bossypants because it was funny and I don't really think I learned much about Tina's life or career. So was Amy's book funny enough to read too?

2:03 PM, December 12, 2014  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Not as funny as Bossypants. Many parts are meant seriously. Okay for free, I guess.

6:02 PM, December 12, 2014  

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