Rating: 3 stars
This book is wondrously eclectic.
I like Amy Poehler. Or rather, I like Amy Poehler’s performance as Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation. That’s the only thing I’ve seen her in. I like her in that enough to have bought her autobiography.
When it came up as my next read in The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge, I cheered. Out loud. The house was empty but for me and the cat, so it was okay. I cheered because it had been a bewilderingly frightening weekend of watching and reading the news coming out of America, and I needed a book that would lift my spirits.
Poehler writes very much in the way she performs the character of Leslie Knope. So either she’s not acting when she’s portraying her, or Poehler has developed a comedic public persona that meets all manner of requirements, from SNL sketches to Parks and Rec to an autobiography.
It’s a funny book. I’ve laughed out loud while reading it. Sometimes in public. Her memory of the time Obama and McCain were opponents for the office of President, when Tina Fey took off Sarah Palin on SNL, was a bittersweet thing to read. What a time, when the worst the world had to worry about was that Palin might become Vice President. I’m sure it would have been funnier, less poignant, 12 months ago. The laughs instead came from Poehler’s description of being pregnant at the time and the advice she received from her gynaecologist.
It’s also a serious book, with thoughts about what it means to be a woman in America, the pressure to look a certain way, to behave a certain way. Poehler has words of advice for young women struggling with their confidence. Most of it is about not worrying about not being what society deems attractive, and finding a different strength. There’s more subtle stuff about whether you’re a decent person or not, as in the story she tells about a SNL skit she regrets doing and her reaction to someone challenging her on it. There’s also advice on how to be middle aged, which I found both useful and funny. Especially the bit about being invisible. That’s the thing I enjoy most about being 46. Not having to care about whether anyone is noticing me, not having to care about whether I’m in the thick of things, ‘enjoying’ myself. That was what was exhausting about my 20s.
And the book is eclectic. No standard chronological wander through life for Amy. There are chunks about how she became involved in improv, a tale that I found really interesting, not knowing anything about her other than Leslie Knope. It was good to learn about her previous career without having witnessed any of it. It felt more like I was living it with her than enjoying a yarn about something I already knew. There are chunks about her childhood and her family that shed light on why she ended up doing what she does. There are the patches of advice to other women mentioned above, and the reminiscences and name dropping from her time on SNL. She came across as open but elusive, butterflying her way through her story without settling long enough for the reader to get a really close look at her. Clever woman.
There were many funny lines in the book. She has a quirky turn of phrase and a surreal imagination. The funniest line for me was the one I’ll end this review with.
Nothing is more depressing than a tired dominatrix.