There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say by Paula Poundstone
Written by Ashley Kelmore, Posted in Reviews
Best for: People who enjoy Paula Poundstone on Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me.
In a nutshell: Comedian shares details of her life – including the time when she was convicted of endangering her children – against the backdrop of historical biographies. Seriously.
Line that sticks with me: I listened to the audio book, so I can’t quote directly, but I, too, was a girl cast as Peter Quince in an elementary school production of Midsummer Nights’ Dream.
Why I chose it: Ms. Poundstone has a new book out, which I was hoping would be available on audio. It is not yet, but this one was, and so I picked it up.
Review: I started listening to this book this morning on my run, and kept it going all morning as I cleaned up, did chores, painted my nails. It was fun to listen to, engaging, and generally a good way to stay entertained on a Saturday when I have things to do but don’t want to listen to music.
Ms. Poundstone is regularly featured on Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me on NPR; I also saw her stand-up show in Seattle a few years ago. I’ve found her mostly endearing, and was definitely surprised when she was charged with, among other things, ‘lewd acts with a minor’ many years ago. She addresses the arrest and sentencing in the book (the lewd act charge was dropped; she was punished instead for endangering her children by driving drunk with them in the car), allowing for the seriousness of it all while reflecting on some of the more absurd parts.
What makes the whole book kind of odd, but in a good way, is that each of the seven chapters intertwines parts of her story with the biography of an historical figure. Joan of Arc, Beethoven, Helen Keller and others are heavily featured. Ms. Poundstone isn’t comparing herself to them in any serious way; their accomplishments serve as a way for her to self-deprecatingly associate her life and challenges with those of others. And honestly, I learned a few things about these historical figures along the way, which was unexpected but a clever way to frame a book.
I also appreciated how she was open with the fact that she doesn’t have sex, and doesn’t enjoy it. She doesn’t judge others for having sex, and makes a couple of jokes at her own expense about it (namely focusing on how tired she is that even if she were doing sex correctly, as she assumes she wasn’t, she can’t imagine it being better than good sleep), but it is refreshing to hear someone speak openly about not being interested in it.
I can’t urge anyone to race out and get this, and there were certainly some cringe-worthy moments (I’m still not sure how I feel about the first part of the last chapter, which was focused on Chief Sitting Bull), but overall I think it was worth a Saturday morning’s worth of time.