Review: Yes Please by Amy Poehler (4/5)

Title: Yes Please

Author: Amy Poehler

Rating: 4/5

Genre: Memoir

Blurb:

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’m always impressed when I read a memoir where the author is completely honest about herself. In Poehler’s Yes Please, she shows herself as a vulnerable human being. She is not afraid to explore her flaws, but she is not afraid to explore her strengths, either. She shows herself as an actress, comedian, wife, ex-wife, mother, friend. She is a conglomerate of identities, weaknesses, blessings. Rather than define herself by a choice one or two characteristics, she builds herself as three-dimensional and explores the intricacies of her life.

As a fan of Parks and Recreation, I expected a lot of humor from Poehler. Unfortunately, it’s obvious that she’s a physical actress. Many of the jokes in the book which I can imagine being funny performed fall flat in a written context. There were several times where I found myself smiling, but those were usually in response to stories abut the Parks and Rec crew rather than any quip.

While I was disappointed in the humor, I appreciated nearly everything else — the write-ins from her parents and Seth Meyers, the pictures, the lists, the notes from ‘doctors’. It was all fun and reflected Poehler’s personality well. So while I really enjoyed the book as a whole, I was expecting a lot belly laughs than I had.

Review: Negotiating with the Dead by Margaret Atwood

41MC4ME69XLTitle: Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing

Author: Margaret Atwood

Rating: 5/10

Genre: Memoir

Blurb:

What do we mean when we say that someone is a writer? Is he or she an entertainer? A high priest of the god Art? An improver of readers’ minds and morals? And who, for that matter, are these mysterious readers? In this wise and irresistibly quotable book, one of the most intelligent writers now working in English addresses the riddle of her art: why people pursue it, how they view their calling, and what bargains they make with their audience, both real and imagined.

Perhaps some of my disappointment with this book comes from the fact that I was expecting something much different. Negotiating with the Dead is written in a mix of philosophy and memoir that comes together as hit or miss. Every chapter is mirrored after lecturs given by Atwood, but she finds ways to weave them together.

I expected a lot more about honing the craft of writing in this book, but there wasn’t much, if any. While I don’t go out of my way to read philosophy, I still enjoy it from time to time. I think what drives me away from these types of books is the often pretentious and flowery language used, which is abundant in Atwood’s novel. While sometimes I would be thinking to myself, “Yes, that’s right. That’s brilliant,” other times I would have to stop myself from rolling my eyes. and skipping pages.

It could be that this book just isn’t for me; I’m a story-driven person. I found myself enjoying Atwood’s musings on her growing up far more than I did anything else in the book.  If you’re the type of person who enjoys discussing the philosophy behind art, this might be the book for you. However, it was too inconsistent for me to truly enjoy.

In the silence of your bones and eyes, forgotten magic sits and waits for fire.

tattoo

Though I can’t remember the exact instant, I’m sure I began writing stories the moment I was able to scratch out sentences. I shared the first, graphic chapter of my horror story with my fourth grade class when I was nine, and though I was mysteriously unable to share any future chapters, my fellow students praised me and encouraged me to keep writing.

When I was twelve, writing persisted in being my number one pastime and passion. I built friendships through it — friendships that would last many years. I wrote several thousand words a day, and I obsessed over building worlds and melodrama with my friends.

But I also hated myself then. I had a deep-rooted loathing for my own existence. I wondered how I could ever be loved by another human being. I “realized” that I was a waste of space. Many times, it was writing that kept me from going that extra step and killing myself. “Just one more reply,” I would say. “Just let me write out this part.” Instead of trying to end myself, I would scratch at my arms until they felt raw. It couldn’t be too noticeable, though; I couldn’t let anyone know what I was going through.

Shortly after my thirteenth birthday, I decided I was going to go through with it. I went so far as to run away from home, but stopped in a cemetery to call and say I wanted to come back. I spent three days in the psych ward of a hospital, and during that time, I wrote a lot.

Depression doesn’t go away quickly, unfortunately, and often it doesn’t go away at all. I continued to write and find pleasure in it, but I also became spiteful and bitter towards the people who loved me and wanted to help me. Sometimes, my writing became a way to hurt those people. It wasn’t just an escape, but a weapon.

I began to get better. Over time, I accepted that I hated myself and that I couldn’t do anything about it. I continued to write. I wrote letters to my ex-girlfriend, pining over her and romanticizing our future. Writing slowly became a more solitary activity. It became more personal.

The first time I remember really accepting myself was when I was sixteen. I had gotten over the fear of social backlash for my sexuality and outgrew my self-hatred. I didn’t love myself, though; it was mere acceptance. I was what I was, and I had to live with it. There was no use getting upset about it. I had managed to go a year without hurting myself, and that amazed me. Though I still had my days of depression, this development signaled growth.

I went through a moment of panic when I turned eighteen. I had lived nearly two decades, and I hadn’t done the one thing I had always wanted to do: write a book. I had completed nearly a quarter of my life, yet I was nowhere close to fulfilling my life’s goal. All these years of writing, and the only things I had to show for it were the first few chapters of several dozen half-worked ideas. At this point, I began writing fanfiction in earnest. I ended up posting a story nearly 70,000 words long with a comments section filled with the praises of strangers. I never dreamed that there would be thousands of people reading this piece of fanart, yet the hit counter continued to rise.

Though it wasn’t original fiction, I still felt a swell of pride from all of this. It was exactly the kind of reinforcement I needed. 70k was nearly a book, and if I could do that with fanfiction, surely I could do that with my own work. Though I continued to write fic, I kept my own ideas in the back of my mind. Fanfiction was practice, I told myself. Once I was confident in my writing, I would go through with my own ideas.

robert montgomery

“In the silence of your
bones and eyes,
forgotten magic sits
and waits for fire.”
– Robert Montgomery

These four lines of poetry haunted me. I recited them to myself when I needed a confidence boost, a morale boost, a reason-to-live boost.

I started working on my novel in earnest between my first and second year of college. I hadn’t seen depression in over year, and after interviewing professors about nuclear warfare and spending hours of my summer days in the library, I felt confident.

Then I went to work in Disney World, nearly a thousand miles from home. Depression kicked down my door, and I spiraled. Writing forced me to get up in the morning. Though I often spent half an hour convincing myself to get out of my bed, I managed to write nearly every day. Writing eventually became more than a pastime or a hobby; it became a literal reason to live. My words are my own, and no one can write them but me. I thought this to myself often. My stories — fictitious or realistic — could only be told by me and me alone. Though the new found depths of my depression scared me, the idea of dying without having written a book scared me even more. If I died before completing my life’s goal, then why have lived to this point at all? I didn’t write because it was fun; I wrote because I had to. My life was literally write or die.

My depression terrified me, so I went home a month early to recover. Within days of returning, I finished the first draft of my first novel. Things looked up.

My moods wavered drastically when I went back to school. I kept writing, though. I had to. In Disney, I had suffered a terrifying relapse. I couldn’t go back to that. I had to do whatever necessary to avoid slipping backward.

Last month, I finished the second draft of my first novel. I’m more stable now. With my novel finished, however, I knew that it was time for something as physically permanent on my body as this achievement was on my mind: a tattoo.

That poetry I had recited to myself over and over again in my darkest moments needed to be on my body. They had to be. In the silence of your bones and eyes, forgotten magic sits and waits for fire. My words were my own, and no one could write them but me. The stories and characters I created in my mind could not affect others’ lives unless I put ink to page, ink to skin, ink to soul.

I resolved to get Roberty Montgomery’s poetry permanently on my body. The placement needed to be perfect, as well. While I thought about getting it on my ribs where it would be easy to hide, the idea didn’t sit right with me. I realized the only place these words could be was on my forearm, where I’d hurt myself since the first appearance of depression and in my bouts of relapse. Just as I wrote on my paper with my right hand, I wrote red messages of hate with it on my forearm. These words that had fueled me for so long had to be inked where I had expressed self-hatred. They needed to be somewhere as a constant reminder, always visible, a scarlet letter to warn me away from ever touching my skin in disgust again.

Writing has become my reason for living. Marking the world with my stories and characters has become the main driving force in my life. People disappear from your life, they die, and they change their minds, but stories tattoo the world with your soul. As long as there is someone in the world who has read my writing, who has been affected by it, I know I have done something with my life. I have inspired with my passion. I have kindled the fire in others’ bones. And that will always be worth living for.