Amy Poehler Should Be President & My First Michael Chabon

Book #6 and book #7 of the year are finished. For some reason, I’m feeling very behind on my books goal. I should be reading at a pace of about 8 books per month, though, so it definitely could be worse. Anyway, book #6 was Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon and book #7 was Yes Please by my hero Amy Poehler.

Telegraph Avenue was my first Michael Chabon novel, so that was an interesting experience. For some reason, it took me forever to really get into this book. I think I was expecting something more like Nick Hornby, light and funny and quicker to read. But no, Chabon is so detailed it’s insane. Which is awesome, he writes really beautifully. Maybe I just picked it up at a weird point in life or something. It’s also very steeped in the Oakland setting, so maybe that was my problem. I’ve never been to Oakland and am unfamiliar with all that place’s history.

Like I said, though, it was beautifully written and extraordinarily detailed. The story mainly follows a pair of friends and business partners and their respective families. Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe run a struggling used record store on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland; their wives—Gwen and Aviva, respectively—also happen to work together as midwives and friends.

They are all struggling to keep their respective businesses afloat while balancing their chaotic family lives; the Stallings especially, as Archy’s 14-year-old forgotten son makes a reappearance in his life. There’s also this whole thing with Archy’s terrible father and some culmination of events that happened decades before involving murder and blackmail. The whole story is made more complex by the racial tension that crops up between the two families (one black, one white) and their racially diverse careers, neighborhoods, and backgrounds.

Again, I really can’t explain why I wasn’t able to get excited about it. There were parts that awed me and really beautiful passages that I underlined; I think I cried at one part. But I kept having to force myself to pick it back up and continue reading. Usually, once I did start it was fine. It was a very strange reading experience, I can’t say that that’s happened before with any book or author. Anyway, people love the book and it’s obviously good. Chabon is also obviously a great author; I guess I just felt “meh” about this specific book.

On the other hand, I never wanted to put my bookmark back in Yes Please by Amy Poehler, nor did I ever want it to end. I love her. I’ve been wanting to read this book since it came out, and then especially since I read Bossypants by Tina Fey last year and fell equally in love with the book/author.

Amy Poehler is so wonderful. It’s just an indisputable fact. Her book was much more serious than I thought it would be; I didn’t realize she had gone through over ten years of marriage then a divorce with Will Arnett (gives brand new meaning to that one Parks and Rec episode), and that was mentioned quite a bit in the book. She didn’t dwell on it, really, but you could tell it was both the best and worst thing that could have happened.

Conversely, any discussion of her two sons was some of the warmest writing I’ve ever encountered. She loves her sons so much. It’s beautiful. It’s also beautiful when she talks about Parks and Recreation, and the cast of that show. And when she talks about her childhood friends. And her time with SNL. And the Upright Citizens Brigade. And pretty much everyone she’s ever worked with. She is just beautiful. And so is this book.

It seems rare to find comedians who are funny without being funny at the expense of anyone. It also seems rare for Hollywood people to be as truly down-to-earth as Poehler seems, and truly as ready-to-laugh-at-themselves as she is. Maybe it’s a comedy thing, and maybe comedians are more likely to put themselves in compromising or humiliating situations because they’re used to doing things to get a laugh.

I think Poehler is just a rare breed of perfect human, though, who deserves all the success she’s achieved. I feel lucky that her success allows me to partake in some great entertainment. In this book, she gave perfect career advice and happiness advice and beauty advice and and friendship advice and just all-around great life advice. And a bunch of really funny stories, too, naturally.

Above all, I’d like to get a beer with her, but that isn’t looking likely so I just hope she keeps writing beautiful books and wonderful comedy. ◊

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