Monday, January 12, 2009

#33 - "Yes Man" by Danny Wallace

Yes Man (2005) by Danny Wallace was another one of those books on display at the bookstore that caught my attention. I think the first time I noticed it I didn't even know there was a movie coming out, but the idea sounded interesting enough, so I put it on hold at the library. And now that I've read it, I can say I enjoyed it; it was a quick, fun, and entertaining book.

Danny Wallace is a twenty seven year-old English bloke living and sometimes working in London. His girlfriend has recently dumped him and he's feeling down, staying in a lot, and neglecting his friends. He decides that he needs to change his life around and as another "stupid boy project" decides to embrace the idea of being a "Yes Man." He vows to say yes to every favor, request, suggestion, and invitation. He first tries out his new philosophy for just a day but quickly decides that one day is not long enough to make any lasting changes and subsequently promises to say "yes" to everything for the rest of the year.

This book was easy to read and consistently entertaining. I found myself laughing out loud more than once. What's even more suprising to me, considering how much I enjoyed reading it, was that looking back, Danny doesn't actually do all that much. Many of the funniest parts of the book come from Wallace's superior storytelling abilities and not necessarily from the action. Danny travels, he takes some drugs, he goes out more, he gets a lot of credit cards, and has to deal with spam e-mails, but nothing he does is really extraordinary.

And that is true for Danny's philosophy as well. One of the blurbs on the cover of the book say, "[o]ne of those rare books that actually has the potential to change your life." Now, it's definitely fascinating to think, "what would happen to me if I said 'yes' to everything?" Or, "Hmmm, maybe it would be helpful to try to be more open to new ideas, experiences, and people." But it takes about two seconds before deciding that saying "yes" to everything is a horrible idea that pretty much guarantees a waste of money and time on things of little interest to you. Sure, once in awhile you might meet some captivating person at a party that you thought would be a bore, but some of the random shit Danny did was truly pointless. And the lesson Danny learns, that saying 'yes' is good and can have unintended, life-changing consequences, while saying 'no' is also important, is already self-evident to a vast majority of the population. But Danny Wallace is a likeable character and a gifted storyteller, and I had a good time reading about six months of his life.

As far as the book's move to a movie, I find it difficult to imagine a good movie coming from this material. I can easily put Yes Man and Marley and Me into the same category. Both were enjoyable books that made me laugh out loud. Nothing truly extraordinary or especially meaningful happens in either book, but it's the charisma of the storyteller and his relatable, humorous story that catches readers and draws them along. Now, I haven't seen either movie, but it sounds as though the film makers were not able to translate that to the screen. I also have an incredibly hard time with Jim Carrey as the main character. Maybe I'm just a fan of accents, but the whole account was a lot funnier when I imagine the narrator as a young, English bloke. This might be because the humor is more stereotypically "English," often understated and satirical. And Danny Wallace played it pretty straight and sincere throughout the book. Jim Carrey just does not seem like a good fit for this character. Oh well, doubtful I'll ever watch the movie anyhow.


Dropout! said...

I'm curious what happened with women. Did he ever get hit on by girls he wasn't into? Because if this was even a reasonably attractive girl who's saying yes to everything, hoo-boy would she be in trouble.

Book Blogger said...

Well, there was an incident that occurred with a woman he went out with on a blind date. And when Danny went to Amsterdam he tried to avoid the red light district. And then there was what Danny Wallace would probably describe as some "nervewracking" time he spent in the "oldest gay, leather bar in Europe."