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Yes Man - Danny Wallace
Member Name: missrarr
Yes Man - Danny Wallace
Date: 25/04/13, updated on 26/04/13 (60 review reads)
Advantages: Hilarious, well-paced and touching, even inspiring
Disadvantages: Not in the slightest!
And its really rather damn good. Here's why.
No, not a boring life account of a jobsworth suit-wearer, but something entirely different. Meet Danny Wallace, real-life being and honest writer. Previously associated with fellow Boy Project comedian and writer Dave Gorman - he who famously travelled the world trying to find other Dave Gormans - Danny Wallace is a real bloke with a real career and this is a real account of a period of his life which is arguably both touching, daft, dark, ridiculous and heartwarming all at once - as well as being a slightly cautionary tale for many.
It also inspired a film which has Jim Carrey in it. This is, to me, always slightly suspect, but its not the book's fault. Well, I suppose it is really. But I haven't seen it.
Anyway. On with things.
Danny Wallace thinks he's one of London's "thrusting young urbanites" despite relatively recently having broken up with his girlfriend and working just freelance as a radio producer.
In reality he's a sad sod who is not as good as making up excuses as he thinks he is. He's taken to staying in...drinking tea...watching soaps and sitting around in his pants a lot. His London pals ask him out time and time again and somehow he has always managed to find a way of excusing himself. Pub jaunts. Stag nights. Dinner parties. BBQs, cinema trips, holidays, museum visits...you name it, he's deftly evaded it.
But no man - or woman, I assure you - can avoid Public Transport Hell Syndrome. It gets everyone in the end.
In Danny's case it struck in the most dreaded form possible - the replacement bus service. Now, I can attest to you that the only occasion on which I have interacted socially with other commuters which haven't involved a) glaring at the mad woman who just started screaming at the girl sat next to me for no apparent reason or b) a slightly scary and very condescending suit wearer from Bedford insisting on talking to me all the way there, was when someone had the misfortune to go under a train in Surbiton at 10.05 that morning. I finally interacted with someone at approximately 9.15 that night when by chance the elderly couple who had been next to me on an unexpectedly terminated train at Clapham Junction had also ended up sat opposite me on our eventual departure from St Pancras. We smiled, rolled our eyes, and we actually talked. This was amazing. Then - get this! - someone else leaned over. She had a colleague who had seen the original accident which was still throwing most of London into chaos, almost twelve hours later.
Yes it was tragic but my point here is that it takes extreme provocation - and only mass disruption will do it - for commuters to converse. It is sad really, but it is true. Danny Wallace was sat near an Indian, bearded man when his disruption hell hit. They were told to leave the train - eventually - made their way up the stairs, doing that embarrassed "oh god we've made eye contact and the first polite smile has been used, what do I do?!" sort of way...and ended up in the horrific situation that is "finding themselves sat together on the replacement bus service".
But this was to turn out to be an interesting night for Danny Wallace. Because inevitably, at this point, you have to start talking, out of sheer Britishness. You start by slagging off the situation at hand. Then you've conversed, so you have to continue to do so. Desperation strikes. Anything will do! Anything! So eventually you revert to honesty. You'll never see this person again - why not have a polite conversation?
So Danny and The Beard Man chat. It turns out the man is a teacher. They chat about their lives, and Danny finds himself admitting that away from work, he doesn't do much...he's been "staying in" a lot. The teacher says something that Danny doesn't realise is about to enhance, confuse, wreck and possibly mend his life in the ensuing months.
"Say yes more."
Danny is told that the people who enjoy life are the people who say yes to it - that the people who miss it as its passes by are the ones who hide away and say no. And Danny sees this in himself. He starts to think about the parties and stag nights and holidays and friends he has missed, lost or never made. Then he starts going to the pub with his friend Ian and tells him about this chance encounter and how he has decided to let it change him. He will take the teacher's advice.
He will say yes.
***ARE YOU REALLY SURE ABOUT THIS?***
Of course, this is a friend of a man who pursued other people around the world just because they had the same name. Boy Projects were one of the clauses under which his ex-girlfriend removed herself from their relationship - you don't expect Danny to do this by halves, do you?
Initially it is yes to any invitation, offer or suggestion. And of course this causes chaos. Then eventually some sort of human common sense has to be applied before debt, insanity or ill health finish him off. But, with his supportive friend Ian - he of the one who struck a bet he can't make it last to the end of the year and who relishes the idea of being the one to "punish" him when he fails - Danny tries to go the course and see how his life changes.
(See what I did there?)
By heck, does it. There's travel, interesting offers, money won and lost, love, understanding, the seeking of answers, new friends, old friends, and....a strange challenge he never saw coming. Throw in awkward situations, more awkward situations, a couple of awkward situations and a totally unexpected weekend in Singapore, and you have a fast-paced, totally daft but really very touching book about someone taking a very extreme way of changing their life before it becomes too late.
It has been so long since I read this that going through it again I was genuinely laughing out loud and surprised at what I had forgotten. Wallace has a great writing style and whilst I don't doubt that some things and conversations are at least altered if not fabricated, his comic style particularly of the pub banter between him on his mad mission and his still relatively-sane friends are genuinely hilarious.
But this is a true tome - there is photographic evidence to prove it. And I can empathise with Wallace for how he got in this state - I've done it before, finding myself always extricating myself from the sheer hell that is being a social human or just missing out on opportunities. But I am by far not the worst I know - I can think of one person from my past in question who seemed allergic to the word yes, and was a frustrated, and frustrating individual and at this stage probably always will be. Like a social and emotional brick wall, but still dogged in sticking to their opinions of your actions. Not a good way to live.
I am not saying we should all jack in our jobs and say yes to everything and die in debt and oblivion, and nor is Danny Wallace. And you could just take this book as a really fun read about someone being daft so you don't have to, or indeed just so you can have a good old laugh at someone being a complete berk. You can probably spot a bit of someone you know in the writer though, if not yourself. And if it is you, I must admit that, humorous and stupid escapades aside, there were moments throughout - rebuilding friendships for example - and particularly towards the end when the strength of those friendships, and new ones, along with all the negativity and difficulty that comes along with the "quest", that are truly touching. Yes there is the stupidity of the way that the writer went about his cause - but equally there is a wealth of situations in which his new attitude lead to great opportunities and happiness he would never have known otherwise.
I'm not telling you to take this book and live by it - read it because its damn well funny and written by someone who seems to be a blimmin' nice bloke - but I did finish it feeling both enthralled and touched by the story, and encouraged to take on a more open mind myself. I doubt my ensuing tale will be anywhere near as hilarious, and I am glad I never chose to read this on the train, as it often had me in burst-out-laughing moments crafted through the combination of situation and dead-pan writing style. All the characters are fairly sparsely furnished, although you can't blame the writer for this as they are effectively bit-part players in what is his personal project - but they don't lack for it, their role is played out and conveyed well and believably.
A hilarious, charming and ever-so-honestly inspiring daft book on why we should all be more open to "yes" - the best answer to the cult of self help books I have ever had the fortune to come across and delivered in a perfect humour and self-deprecating honesty. I massively recommend, you'll be hooked.
Paperback on Amazon for £5.99. Also available in other formats.
Summary: Hilarious and brilliant - so glad I read this again.
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