Book: There's Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say by Paula Poundstone

Often funny

Paula Poundstone
There's Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say
Harmony Books, 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-609-60316-1
ISBN-10: 0-609-60316-7
274 pages

Paula Poundstone is reasonably famous as a stand-up comedian. I think she's pretty funny and I'm not generally a big fan of stand-up comedians. In the book, she says:

    I love to hear what other people have to say, it's
    just that I often can't hear them over the sound of
    my own voice. Te problem is that anytime
    someone tells me something about themselves,
    it reminds me of something that happened to me
    once, so I cut them off and I'm off and running
    again. I asked Barbara Boxer about a famous
    photograph of her and the other women in the
    House of Representatives just before Anita
    Hill was allowed to testify before the Senate
    Judiciary Committee during the Clarence
    Thomas hearings. She explained that on the
    Monday morning after the Senate Judiciary
    Committee had refused to hear Anita Hill's
    testimony, the women from the House of
    Representatives marched to the Senate. As she
    got to the part where she told me she marched up
    the stairs of the United States Senate flanked by
    determined female lawmakers, to my horror I
    heard myself say, "Oh, I went to the Senate once,"
    and I began to tell the story of a public tour I once
    took. (pp. 94-95)

That, in short, or actually not so short, is what Ms Poundstone does in the book. In the course of giving short biographies of Joan of Arc, Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller, Charles Dickens, the Wright brothers, Beethoven, and Sitting Bull, she constantly interrupts herself to talk about herself and her three adopted children.

The biographies aren't especially detailed or insightful. You'd likely learn more from reading the subjects' Wikipedia entries. And Ms Poundstone's own life, while at least somewhat unusual, isn't the sort that generally makes for a fascinating memoir. Still, she's often funny and the unusual combination works better than you might expect.

Take, for example:

    Like most of Dickens's novels, Nicholas Nickleby
    is long, with lots of characters whose lives
    intersect and influence one another, surprising
    the reader with twists and turns throughout. I'm
    bitterly jealous. I do think it makes me special that
    my feelings of jealousy transcend my historical
    time. For example, lots of people learn about and
    admire Benjamin Franklin. I'm one of the few,
    though, who look at a one-hundred-dollar bill
    and think, "I could have thought of 'a penny saved
    is a penny earned,' if I'd had the chance." I can't
    even imagine how Mr. Dickens kept it all straight
    even in his own head, let alone the complication
    of all of the papers and thin inkwell. I would have
    constantly spilled ink. I've seen pictures Of his
    writing in books. There are little cross-outs here
    and there., but no big ink spills or smudges. I hate
    cross-outs. If I'm writing and I accidentally begin a
    word with the wrong letter, I actually use a word
    that does begin with the letter so I don't have to
    cross out. Hence the famous closing, "Dye-dye
    for now." A lot of my letters make no sense, but
    they are often very neat. (p. 114)

If that makes you smile, you're likely to enjoy the book. The last chapter is a bit darker than the others, but Sitting Bull's life was not a lot of laughs.

Posted: Thu - November 15, 2007 at 06:58 PM   Main   Category: