Amy Poehler’s ‘Yes Please’ Is Review-Proof. Why Some Books Transcend Criticism
In late October, one of the most anticipated memoirs of the fall, Amy Poehler’s Yes Please , made its big debut. Fans were excited, people bought the book in droves, and everyone was delighted that one of the funniest women in America had written an entire book about her life, just for us. And then came The New York Times review.
Dwight Garner reviewed the book in a piece titled “‘S.N.L.’ Memories and Getting-Some-Rest Dreams,” and, unlike many of us who love Poehler and imagine kicking back and having some beers with her, he wasn’t impressed. “Reading Yes Please is not like hacking away at a freezer,” writes Garner. “It’s like having the frosty and jagged contents dumped in your lap.” Ouch.
He’s entitled to his opinion, obviously. And given Poehler’s celeb status and image (e.g., a cool chick you can have beers with), there’s a tendency to adore and praise books like this because we love the messenger so much. But do we really need to critique a book like Yes Please and compare the experience of reading it to having jagged ice daggers dumped into your lap?
I actually thought the book was funny, honest, and entertaining. I felt no pain as I plowed through the pages. How can you be upset by a book that has two pages of plastic surgery haikus?
Garner complained that the book has “a lot of filler,” like blank pages, old photos (which are awesome), and pages from scripts. Megan Amram (Poehler’s colleague on Parks and Recreation) wrote her first book, Science… For Her! , which just came out and which also has blank pages, funny photos, and —in an act of true blasphemy — entire pages filled with the word “kale.” Just “kale.” And it’s funny.
There are times in life when you want to think deep thoughts and ponder the meaning of life via a book or a film or an art installation. Then there are times when you just want to kick off your shoes (and your worries) and be entertained.
In other words, some books (and films and art installations) are review-proof. People will seek them out and recommend them because they’re FUN — regardless of their critical status. Yes Please isn’t Ulysses or Proust, and thank god. Who wants to ponder the nature of memory when all you want to do is forget about car payments and all that student loan debt looming over you?
Books like 50 Shades of Grey (no disrespect to Poehler or Amram for a contextual parallel), Flowers in the Attic, and — believe it or not –—Snooki’s “novel” A Shore Thing sell and develop a strong fan base not because they’re high art, but because they make us feel good. Or because they were "written" by a Jersey Shore cast member. Same with films. I went to see Thor and loved every minute of it not because of its whip-smart dialogue and Oscar-caliber performances, but because the Rainbow Bridge looked cool and Chris Hemsworth is hot. Sometimes you want to watch Bergman films, and sometimes you want to watch a sexy actor with big, muscly arms battling evil forces.
Garner is entitled to his opinion, but we’re going to keep reading books like Yes Please no matter what reviewers say. No amount of negative criticism or jagged ice analogies will keep us away.