audio books · Bad Ass Women · Biography · Books to Movies · children's books · Historical Fiction · series books · Western

Finding Minimalism on the Prairie

little house on the prairieWe tend to think of materialism and a desire to hold on to and collect physical objects as a modern day enigma, one born of mass production and fast fashion.  Imagine my surprise when this theme popped up unexpectedly in the strangest of places, the final chapters of The Little House on the Prairie.

The book ends dramatically when the Ingalls family finds their homestead, along with a few of their neighbors, is unintentionally but illegally located on Indian Land.  Rather than face the soldiers tasked with removing these settlers by force, Pa decides it’s best for the family to move along before the soldiers arrive.  As the restless spirit in the family who initiated the move out west, it’s easy to see Pa moving along without regrets.  He is akin to the modern day uber minimalist, packing furs and rifle in lieu of the mandatory modern minimalist back pack and laptop.  You can just see Pa nodding a curt goodbye to the house, the well, the garden and the year he spent building, digging, planning, planting, and trapping.  You can just see him moving along to the next adventure without a second glance.

For Ma and the girls, the disappointment is a bit thicker, but they face their reality head on with chores and no tears.  When everything they own is loaded in the wagon, Laura and Mary’s only sentimentality is a request to watch the little house disappear behind them as they roll away.  It’s hard to imagine any modern child (or adult for that matter) packing up their belongings as quickly or calmly as those two little prairie children asked to vacate their beloved home in such short order.

As the family heads towards Independence, Kansas, they come across a couple stranded in the middle of the prairie, the victims of a horse thief.  When the Ingalls family offers them a ride to Independence, the couple refuses.  They won’t leave their belongings.

Knowing full well the dangers the couple face alone in Indian Territory, Pa offers the ride multiple times, practically begging the couple to join them.   Each time, the couple refuses, opting instead to stay in the prairie with wagon full of (now useless) belongings.

As Pa drove off, burdened now with the knowledge of these people choosing to stay stranded in a very hostile land, I was left contemplating the situation.  It was impossible not to compare the stranded couple with modern Americans.

How many of us let our belongings dictate our future and hold us hostage, sometimes in dangerous territory, just so we can hold onto them?

How many of us have forgone a dream vacation or chance of a life time trip around the world because we couldn’t let go of our apartment?

How many of us have declined to take that exciting job opportunity in a field we love because it meant moving all of our belongings cross country?

How many times have our friends or family members stayed in a relationship way beyond the expiration date, simply to avoid giving up their stuff?

How many of us have taken on the burden of homes that chain us to the porch with the mortgage?

How many of us have taken on careers we actively despise or work multiple jobs so we can afford our wants?

How many of us are giving up our lives for a wagon full of useless shit?

audio books · Bad Ass Women · beach read · Biography · Book Review · Comedy

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

yes please“Famous people are never as interesting as your friends.” – Amy Poehler

While waitlisted for the library’s copy of Tina Fey’s “Bossy Pants”, I decided to check out Amy Poehler’s memoir, “Yes Please”. Poehler read her own book for the audio version, so I went into this book eager and excited to learn more about her, only to fall quickly into waiting for the good stuff. Throughout the seven hour audio book, Poehler droned endlessly through random haphazardly ordered stories and long (LONG) lists of all of the people she ever knew. Reading “Yes Please” was like reading a script while it’s still being written and simultaneously like meeting someone interesting at a party only to realize they’re incredibly boring and there’s no polite way to escape.

Poehler juggled writing “Yes Please” with caring for two kids under 6, a divorce and a busy booming career schedule. In that vein, the entire book presents itself as a half hearted attempt to write down some “funny shit” after everything else had been managed for the day. To ease some of her burden, both of her parents and Seth Meyers contribute to “Yes Please”, which felt cheap and out of place. She also started her book with an excessive amount of complaining about how hard it is to write a book.

This complaint sets the tone for the remaining pages as “I didn’t really want to do this but all of my peers wrote books, soooo….”

Poehler is a very talented and funny comedian. She has great timing and an unbelievably versatile character list. Her pro-women, live-and- let-live motto of “Good for her, not for me” felt refreshing and sincere. She’s a fantastic writer and most of the material in this book could easily be translated into hilarious skits. With that said, storytelling is not Poehler’s strong suit. The background, performance, and build-up that set a punch line on stage or studio do not translate well into print (or audio.) In fact, after skipping around the audio book and listening to the chapters recommended by Amazon reviewers, I finally hit the very last chapter, which Poehler performs in front of a live audience. While the rest of the book felt flat and annoying, her live stuff was really funny! Poehler is a comedian, not a story teller.

In general, “Yes Please” bounces around Poehler’s idyllic middle class suburban childhood to her dream job on SNL to a lovely celebrity life full of famous friends. Her parents lovingly supported her career choice of waitressing and improv. She lived happily in an unsafe Chicago neighborhood where she suffered no real misadventures or scares. She encountered no major setbacks or failures on the road to fame. She’s always been blessed with great friends, great roommates, has great kids and she is eternally grateful for her fantastic life. According to her book, the worst things Poehler has encountered thus far in life were her friendly harmless meth-addicted landlords who enjoyed cleaning, a pile of human poop on the sidewalk, and offending someone once (through no fault of her own) and then waiting five years to apologize.

Despite all of the stories shared, Poehler never shares anything intimate or personal. The pages are full of happy safe tales of no great import or consequence, making it much too long and much too vanilla.

At 329 pages, “Yes Please” could have done with some heavy editing. It also would have helped to kick out 90% of the name-dropping going on in this book. Nearly every person Poehler’s worked with (famous or not) is mentioned in this book. While SNL super fans and people familiar with the comedy circuit may enjoy these stories, it was exhausting (and BORING!) trying to keep track of who she’s talking about and who they are and why they’re even in her book.

And so my friends, I conclude these ramblings with the fact that “Yes Please” became one of about three books I just could not read all the way through. This book actually turned me off of anything Amy Poehler until the very last chapter in which her live comedic performance changed my mind. After listening to her perform live, I decided to dislike her book and how she read it, instead of just disliking all of her.

Until next time, happy reading y’all.

And if you like Amy Poehler, stay away from this book and stick to her performance stuff instead.