ASK Musings

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August 2021



Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
People who like humorous essays and who don’t mind a lot of cursing and blue humor. Not for people looking for a lot of Parks and Recreation content.

In a nutshell:
Actor Nick Offerman shares his thoughts on this book that is part memoir, part philosophical treatise.

Worth quoting:
I spent a lot of time noting things said in the book that frustrated me, but I didn’t actually type out any quotes that stuck with me.

Why I chose it:
I was looking for a funny audio book read by the author, and I have enjoyed Offerman’s work as Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation, so figured I’d check it.

First things first: if you are picking this up to hear about Offerman’s time on Parks and Recreation, put it back down. Other than a few minutes spent discussing his casting on the show, and one anecdote in the very last chapter, there’s really nothing in here about his time in his arguably most famous role. To which I say – good for him. I’m fairly certain his publishers knew many people would be drawn to the book because of his work on that show, while he just wrote whatever he wanted.

That said, without what I was admittedly looking for, the book was still at times both interesting and entertaining. There is a lot in here that is funny, and also wise. But there is also so much that frustrated the hell out of me, because Offerman sounds so … ignorant. Like, a very well-meaning but out of touch elder. Some notes on this:

– When he talks about food, he says that everyone can get fresh food anywhere, and shames people for serving their kids fast food, with ZERO acknowledgment that access to fresh food isn’t universal, that it’s expensive from a cost perspective, but also that it takes loads of time to cook everything from scratch. This book is a few years old, but this take belongs in the last century, not this one.
– He values work with his hands, and I appreciate that, but he is so dismissive of work that doesn’t fit that narrow definition that it’s a bit exhausting. He also buys into that absurd idea that we all just need to ‘find work we love,’ as though every job out there is super fun if we only just find the right one. Dude, you play dress-up for a living. That’s cool. And necessary – TV and movies have helped keep me going during the nightmare of this pandemic. But there are a lot of shit jobs out there, and a lot of people do them.
– At one point he talks about the problems of marketing and consumerism, and he sounds a bit like a freshman who has just taken his first Comms 101 class.
– He talks about an interaction with the police and makes this claim: ‘don’t run,’ as though that is some how a guarantee of safety. No recognition at all that his whiteness makes his encounters with the police much less fraught.
– He briefly touches on the idea of ‘scent’, which makes me wonder if he’s one of the white celebrities who prides himself on not washing regularly.
– Finally, his commentary on women wearing make-up and getting cosmetic surgery were pretty ignorant and misogynistic. Like, first off, make-up isn’t FOR YOU dude. And for those who feel the pressure to wear make-up to impress dudes, that’s the patriarchy buddy. Same for cosmetic surgery – he talks about how his wife hasn’t had any and how it’s a shame women will do that to themselves, and yet says NOTHING about why women might feel pressured to do that. It’s just so frustrating.

I wouldn’t really recommend this to anyone, but if you already own it and are thinking of reading it, as long as your expectations aren’t too high, I’d imagine you might enjoy it.

As an aside: if you, like me, have thought of giving this to your dad for Christmas some year: don’t. I am mortified now, considering the number of times Offerman discusses various forms of sex. I do think my dad appreciates more raunchy content than my mother would like in the house, so hopefully he at least got a kick out of it. But ooof, that’ll teach me to gift a book I haven’t read.

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