Books

Poehler book is funny, wise, honest, self-indulgent and messy

“Yes Please” by Amy Poehler (Dey Street, 329 pages, $28.99)

Amy Poehler has written a book. Called “Yes Please,” it is, as Poehler fans might expect, funny, wise, earnest, honest, spiritually ambitious, occasionally self-indulgent and structurally messy.

It also feels a bit overdue. So many of her friends and colleagues have already written their books; heck, Lena Dunham just released hers, and her entire career spans fewer years than “Parks and Recreation.”

But as Poehler explains in her preface, she wasn’t quite sure this was a good time for a book. She has been busy. More important, she fears she hasn’t “lived a life full enough to look back on, but I’m too old to get by on being pithy and cute.”

There is also something of a point, as Poehler signals with her title. The “yes,” she writes, “comes from my improvisational days and the opportunities that come from youth, and the ‘please' comes from the wisdom of knowing that agreeing to do something usually means you aren’t doing it alone.”

“Yes Please” is a memoir in that it contains some memories, many of which are offered as hard-won helpful suggestions. Also featured are: haiku about plastic surgery, a chapter by Poehler’s mother, a satiric birth plan, a chapter by Seth Meyers, an annotated history of “Parks and Recreation,” a letter from Hillary Rodham Clinton, sex advice, a truly hilarious list of potential books about divorce and a moving account of an apology.

Mercifully, the book does not include: recipes; any discussion of Poehler’s marriage to and divorce from Will Arnett; a treatise on the frustrations of modern motherhood, or a lot of self-deprecating nonsense about luck. This last one alone makes “Yes Please” worth reading.

Poehler knew early on she wanted to be a performer, and she worked hard to become one. Although she acknowledges the help of others and the good fortune involved in any big career, she resents the overnight-success myth and our dependence on it. Success is not something that rubs off or can be doled out. It’s not pixie dust. The day everyone truly understands this, Hollywood as we know it will cease to exist.

Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times

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