Thursday, December 4, 2014

Smart Lady Humor Two Ways: Yes, Please by Amy Poehler and Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

From Goodreads:
In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book is full of words to live by.
I wasn't really familiar with Amy Poehler at all until I read Bossypants and fell in love with her through Tina Fey.  Then I FINALLY watched Parks and Rec and fell in more love on my own.  And THEN I heard this book was coming out and I was so excited I could barely control myself.  I grabbed it on audio from the library as soon as it was available and listened to it obsessively over the course of a few days.  I tried to force myself to take it slow, but it's just impossible.

It's well written, hilarious, and inspiring.  It's exactly what I wanted.  Poehler doesn't hold much back, but she's also classy and intelligent.  It's a book that celebrates Poehler, and all women, as funny, creative, smart, and confident and I thought it was just perfection.  I highly recommend listening to this one, as Poehler does her own narration.  She also plays clips from Parks and Rec and has guests come on to read portions of the book.  I laughed so hard, I got teary a few times, and I came away with a burning desire to rewatch all of Parks and Rec.  Basically, it's one of my favorites of the year and you should read it right now.

"There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told," writes Lena Dunham, and it certainly takes guts to share the stories that make up her first book, Not That Kind of Girl. These are stories about getting your butt touched by your boss, about friendship and dieting (kind of) and having two existential crises before the age of 20. Stories about travel, both successful and less so, and about having the kind of sex where you feel like keeping your sneakers on in case you have to run away during the act. Stories about proving yourself to a room of 50-year-old men in Hollywood and showing up to "an outlandishly high-fashion event with the crustiest red nose you ever saw." Fearless, smart, and as heartbreakingly honest as ever, Not That Kind of Girlestablishes Lena Dunham as more than a hugely talented director, actress and producer-it announces her as a fresh and vibrant new literary voice.
Oooook, so I wanted to start of with Poehler as a high note before I got into Dunham's book.  Basically, I went into Not That Kind of Girl hoping for something similar to Yes, Please and Bossypants, with maybe a dose of Caitlin Moran thrown in.  I didn't know anything about Dunham going in, other than that she's on Girls (which I haven't seen, but assume is about 20-something women and their delayed adolescense) and she's been naked a lot.  While Girls is definitely not my kind of program, I wanted to give Dunham a try, since she's also known for being super creative and successful at a young age.  I like creative, successful women talking about feminism.

Unfortunately, that's not what this book is.  To start off nicely, I want to acknowledge that Dunham is a fine writer.  I had no real problems with her style or skill as a writer - it's obvious that she is, indeed, very talented and creative.  Her short pieces between essays that were less about her life and more just quippy stuff were quite funny and entertaining.  I also think that the idea that she abused her sister in some way based on the essays here are unfounded and a bit silly.  I don't think you can read a single essay about one thing a person did as a child and decide that they're abused/abusing based on that.  

I'm struggling to write this review, because it's a memoir.  A real person's life and you don't want to just bash it.  The problem is that anytime Dunham talked about her own life, it made me really sad.  It's supposed to be funny because she's all self-aware and realizes that she's shallow and self-focused and vain and insecure, but it doesn't feel genuine. The way she presents herself in the book really just took away any pleasure in reading it.  She dates a lot of horrible people who are terrible to her, she does lots of drugs and alcohol, she lets people use her - and I never really got to a point where I felt like she was sharing anything she "learned".  

Even the parts I was looking forward to (her bravery in presenting a body that isn't Hollywood standard) were made sad by how desperate for attention she sounded when she addressed those choices.  It was less feminism and more desperation for someone, anyone to pay attention to her.  It was just sad.  It made me feel bad for her and for her life choices.

I hate to say it, but this one is a definite do not recommend.  

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