Welcome to the first installment of High Heeled Mama Reads. I won’t lie, I’m a bit nervous about writing a book review. Particularly when I read the book at the start of the year and have read two books since and I was half asleep on the couch the whole time I read it with a horrible head cold the likes of which I have not seen this side of the flu (which it wasn’t, knock wood).
But I will do my best anyway.
I will admit, I love a good memoir. When I read a memoir, I want to get a little insight into the person, what makes them tick, a perspective on an event that perhaps I wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise. I am less interested in the nitty gritty details of a person’s history and more interested in who they have become and how they stay true to that person.
My two all time favorite memoirs are Katharine Graham’s A Personal History and Stephen King’s On Writing. Seriously, if you haven’t read these books, do so. Now. I’ll wait. Okay, never mind, A Personal History is a long one. I won’t wait. You should read it carefully, so I won’t rush you. But let me tell you that it’s a side of historical events that they don’t cover in the history books, it’s a story of a grieving wife and mother, a story of a woman who took the reins at a time when the horses weren’t inclined to respond to a woman’s guidance, a story of a city, a story of a newspaper, a story about a story and it is mind blowingly brilliant. Katharine Graham quickly became one of my all time heroes after I finished reading it. On Writing, on the other hand, is a bit different and maybe not your cup of tea if you don’t read Stephen King books or don’t write. But if you have even a passing interest in either, grab this book and read it and read it and read it again until the cover is creased and worn and the pages underlined and dog eared and it’s broken in like your favorite pair of jeans. His words on writing are some of the most simple and profound I’ve ever read. I’m sure you could apply it to your own passion (insert sky diving/fishing/computer programming for writing here). Find out for yourself. Pick it up. Read it. Thank me later. (Then read his 11/22/63 and send me flowers for recommending such a wonderful, not scary, but utterly compelling novel).
Anyway, I digress.
Amy Poehler. Before reading the book, I enjoyed watching her on SNL, but admittedly never really watched Parks & Recreation. Not because I didn’t think it was good, it just never stayed on my radar and then I didn’t want to take the time to add another show into my already procrastination-fueled escapist television watching line-up. But I enjoyed Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants and really enjoyed Liz Winstead’s Lizz Free or Die last winter and thought why not start my year with another strong woman comic’s memoir?
“I like hard work and I don’t like pretending things are perfect.” From Yes Please‘s preface, Writing is Hard.
That sums it up. Amy Poehler likes hard work, doesn’t pretend things are perfect in reality or in her own life, and that, my friends is her secret to success. The book provides insights on her improv career, what it’s like to be a woman in the comedy business, the importance of working with other women, the importance of working with other funny people (the “love” affair between her and Seth Meyers and Tina Fey is the proof in that pudding). And, speaking of pudding (gotta read it folks), the business of hosting and insanity of being nominated and thoughts on the industry’s hubris about the “importance” of award shows was probably my favorite part of the book. Watching Amy and Tina so deftly handle the Golden Globes last week, was even more enjoyable after reading this book.
I enjoyed learning tidbits about Amy’s past and experience along the way without having it dolled out like a historic timeline. I think she did an excellent job using stories to portray herself, sharing things that might not be the most tantalizing, but instead were the most revealing (her struggle with a joke that went too far and the eventual apology and all that emotional angst in between must have been terrifying to write and share publicly, but cathartic to let go of). Her thoughts on motherhood were completely relatable, her first son’s birth story was fascinating in context with what else was happening in her life. Her refusal to deal in details of her marriage was admirable and the book didn’t lack for not including that information. I did feel that it missed a bit of a narrative arc, but if you take it as a series of essays, it certainly doesn’t hurt the book (and my feelings of lack of continuity could be related to the amount of cold medication I was on and the fact that sometimes the words ran a bit together due to my watery eyes and inability to stay awake for long periods of time).
Now, here’s where I get gushy. The preface on writing alone is worth the price of admission. It was honest and true. Her voice was so strong in this portion of the book I wanted to call her and say “Yes. This. This is true. This is hard. This is horrible. This is wonderful. Wait? What? How can I do this? You did this. Truly, you did. I can do this, too. Except I’m not already fabulously funny and known and with editors. But I, too, have a sleeping child near me at any given moment, a T-ball game to attend and carpool. And I, too, said yes. Want to be friends?” The fact that I’m only 20,000 words into my work in progress (with a mere 70,000, give or take, to go), may have something to do with how much I related to her occasional crisis of confidence while writing a book and attempting to live the rest of her life. But there it is. Amy Poehler’s preface may be my best friend. You know, until Amy and I meet and hit it off and our boys have play dates together while we drink wine and pretend we don’t hear them fighting over Legos in the other room.
I give this book a 4 out of 5.
Did you read Yes Please? What did you think?
Next up, a review of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies.