Tag: Nick Offerman

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Posted February 12, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

Lincoln in the Bardo by George SaundersTitle: Lincoln in the Bardo (Goodreads)
Author: George Saunders
Published: Bloomsbury, 2017
Pages: 343
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

George Saunders’ long awaited debut novel has been surrounded by hype, and winning the Man Booker prize only helped to launch this book. Saunders is probably best known for his short stories that often share a vibe similar to the television show Black Mirror. I even called his last collection Tenth of December “contemporary witty, with an element of darkness”. Even comparing it to two other great collections that were released about the same time, Black Vodka by Deborah Levy and Revenge by Yōko Ogawa. Lincoln in the Bardo tells the story of Abraham Lincoln in 1862. The Civil War has been raging for almost a year while the President’s eleven year old son lies in bed gravely ill. Despite the predictions of a full recovery, Willie dies and his body is laid to read in a Georgetown cemetery.

Blending historical data collected while researching this novel, George Saunders blends in a narrative of the afterlife and grief. While the title suggest that Willie Lincoln is in the bardo, the narrative seems to fit more with purgatory. In some schools of Buddhism, bardo is known as the state of existence between death and rebirth, while purgatory is a state of purification before heading to heaven. This distinction is interesting as the characters in this limbo often are unwilling to let go of their physical remains and complete their journey into the afterlife. These characters are often faced with deformities representative of their mortal failures. Saunders does consider himself a student of Nyingma Buddhism but my understanding of theology is primarily Christian, so I tend to interpret the writing with that thought in mind.

The other part of this novel is set around the President and his family as they grieve the loss of Willie. It is here we see a lot of the historical documentation come into play. This includes excerpts from newspapers and biographies. This serves to drive the narrative of grief but also highlights the inconsistencies found in history. What made this book so appealing was the confliction in Abraham Lincoln. While grieving the loss of his own son, he was still responsible for the loss of so many others because of the Civil War. While the American Civil war may have led to many good things, the effects of war were truly felt throughout Lincoln in the Bardo.

The novel is told through different speeches; a narrative that closely resembles a play. This is what makes the audiobook such an alluring option. The publisher put a lot of effort in producing, with a cast of 166 voice actors, including Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, Rainn Wilson, Susan Sarandon and George Saunders. I was worried that between the narrative style and the large cast, this would be too much of a gimmick but I think Saunders and the audiobook production managed to never go overboard. However I can understand why this would not work for some readers.

The end result of Lincoln in the Bardo was a dark comedy, ghost story and while I was a little worried (because of all the hype) I am glad my book club made me read this novel. At the moment I prefer George Saunders’ short stories but I can only compare Lincoln in the Bardo with Tenth of December. It does make me curious to try CivilWarLand in Bad Decline or Pastoralia. I know in the future Saunders will continue to be surrounded by hype but I am still interested to see what is next for this author.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Posted December 6, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Humour, Non-Fiction / 4 Comments

Yes Please by Amy PoehlerTitle: Yes Please (Goodreads)
, 2014
Pages: 400
Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

For those who don’t know Amy Poehler, then let me clear this part up first. Poehler is a comedian/actor who studied improv before working for Saturday Night Live from 2001 to 2008. In 2009 a spin-off from the American version of The Office was created and Poehler took the lead role in this show called Parks and Recreation. The character Leslie Knope is a perky, mid-level bureaucrat with big hopes and dreams in the small fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. Parks and Rec follows this government department in a single-camera, mockumentary style as they try to jump through all the hoops to do something as simple as fill in the construction pit in an abandoned lot and create a park. The seventh and final season of Parks and Recreation is set to begin during the mid-season of the 2014–15 season.

Author photo

Amy Poehler is not the first Parks and Rec star to release a memoir; Nick Offerman’s (who plays Ron Swanson) book Paddle Your Own Canoe finds him musing about life, manliness, wood work and how to best grill meat. However Poehler’s book was marketed as companion to Saturday Night Live co-star and friend Tina Fey’s Bossypants, rather than Offerman’s memoir. This is possibly due to the huge success of Fey’s memoir and the fact the two often work as a comedy duo.

I picked up Paddle Your Own Canoe as an audiobook because I liked the idea of Ron Swanson narrating and I decided to do the same with Yes Please. Amy Poehler made the audiobook a unique event, with guest stars and banter that I don’t expect appeared in the book. This allowed the listeners to enjoy a different experience to that of reading the book which I know has some pictures to look through instead. I have stopped listening to fiction in audio form because of personal preferences, which has allowed for more podcasts and non-fiction audiobooks. I feel like non-fiction and memoirs seem to work really well as audiobooks; I am not sure why but it just works really well.

What I found interesting about Yes Please was the memoir style; this wasn’t told in a linear format, rather a collection of essays that went back and forward depending on the topic. I really liked this style it allowed more focus on particular topics and allowed Amy Poehler to explore things in her own way. I was also impressed with how strong and confident she comes across in the book; when it came to talking about her divorce with Will Arnett she just simply stated it wasn’t a topic she wanted to go into and then moved on. I think people expect all the juicy and dark details on someone’s life in a memoir and I liked how she just brushed it off, proclaiming “This isn’t a topic I wish to share”. She does share some darker moments but for the most part she wants to come across as a positive and happy person.

Amy Poehler has a strong and passionate attitude towards life and in the end Yes Please really wants people to know that it is okay to be yourself. There were tender moments throughout the book and if you are a fan of Parks and Recreation, you might tear up when she shares her love towards every star within the show. She also spends a lot of time talking about her improv days and trying to make it into show business, reminding people persistence and passion is needed; if you love what you do, then why do anything else.

I really enjoyed reading Yes Please, maybe not as much as Paddle Your Own Canoe but it was still interesting to learn about someone’s life. While some may think that Amy Poehler has let the reader down by refusing to share some parts of her life, I think it really showed integrity. Just because she is an actor doesn’t mean her life is an open book. Parks and Rec fans should pick up this book, but also anyone interested in reading a memoir about someone passionate about life and their job will find Yes Please a great book.

My Top Five Reads of 2013

Posted December 30, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Top 5 / 4 Comments

As 2013 comes to an end, it is time to do that “Best of” post. I know it’s one of those posts you are either sick of or love seeing but I have to share my favourites. It’s been a great year; over 160 books read, some amazing books and some painful ones (see Twilight and New Moon). Like last year I’m going to split my list into “Best of 2013 (released this year)” and all other novels, but as I want to focus more on Non-Fiction too I’m adding “Best Non-Fiction of 2013” to the mix.

Top Five Reads Released in 2013
5. The Unknowns by Gabriel Roth
4. Tenth of December by George Saunders
3. The Explorer by James Smythe
2. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
1. The Machine by James Smythe

Top Five Reads in 2013
5. The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu
4. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
2. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
1. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino

Top 5 Non-Fiction Reads in 2013
5. The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein by Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler
4. Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living by Nick Offerman
3. Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of The Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell
2. Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us by Jesse Bering
1. 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Now it’s your turn to let me know of your favourite books, the new releases and the older books. It doesn’t matter; just what you discovered and loved.

Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman

Posted November 7, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Humour, Non-Fiction / 3 Comments

Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick OffermanTitle: Paddle Your Own Canoe (Goodreads)
Author: Nick Offerman
Narrator: Nick Offerman
Published: Penguin, 2013
Pages: 320
Genres: Humour, Non-Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Nick Offerman is best known for playing Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation. This is his first memoir where he muses about life, manliness, wood work and how to best grill meat. Find out about Offerman’s childhood in small town Minooka, Illinois, his love of the theatre, his love of wood work, his wife Megan Mullally and the deadpan comedic style that made him a star.

If you are a Parks and Recreation fan, and in particular a Ron Swanson fan, then this is the book for you. Just to be clear my favourite character is April. Most of Ron Swanson’s quirks and history are taken right out of Nick Offerman’s life so it is almost like learning about the history of the Pawnee Parks Department director.

I got the audiobook of this and I highly recommend you do the same as Offerman narrates this himself. So it feels like Ron Swanson is narrating the book and then you get that Swansonesque chuckle when he tells a joke or a funny story. Listening to Ron Swanson was the best part of the book and I was actually interested in Offerman’s life.

Paddle Your Own Canoe goes further than just talking about Offerman’s life; he also talks about his personal philosophies and what he considers to be the real makings of a man. There is a lot of talk about equality, treating everyone equal, no matter religion, sexuality and so on. It was really interesting to listen to him talk about respect and not being an asshole. I was really impressed with his views on life. not all of them, but he seemed like a really down to earth and stable guy.

When he talks about Megan Mullally is one of my favourite parts. The love he has for his wife and the respect he shows her is beautiful. He talks about their courtship and their marriage and it is all so wonderful I don’t think I could bare it if they ever separated. He is a little sleazy and even tells the reader to Google Megan Mullally’s breasts, but over all you can see how much he adores her.

I didn’t think I would enjoy reading a memoir of an actor, especially a comedian but I thought this was wonderful. I wonder if reading a memoir of a really amazing actor would be as good. This is light hearted, fascinating and surprising. I never thought Nick Offerman would have such a love for the theatre but now I want to see his deadpan style on the stage. Fans of the show or Offerman will love this; I’m not sure about everyone else.