In the follow-up to There’s Nothing in This Book that I Meant To Say (2007), comedian Poundstone chronicles her amusing and surprisingly personal search for the key to happiness.
In the introduction, the author notes that she has done things in the moment that made her happy, but she had never given much thought to pursuing it consistently. If anyone had found a secret to success, it would be cruel of them to keep it secret. So Poundstone resolved to find it and began an “unscientific” study to figure out if the secret could be found in various tasks or pursuits. Some of the experiments included an exercise regimen, dancing, spending more time with her dog and many cats, and hugging everyone she meets. She also spent an entire day watching movies with her kids, an enterprise that almost broke down over movie choices. After renting a Lamborghini, she discovered that while it thrilled her to drive a powerful machine, she felt like a jerk every time she passed a homeless person. That experiment was supposed to last for a week, but as Poundstone notes, she was deep in debt and could only afford to rent the car for a day. The concept of a comedian doing a series of stunts to find happiness seems like a pure romp, and there are plenty of great laughs, but that’s not the whole story. One of the reasons the author is searching for happiness is to cope with real struggles. She is raising three kids while trying to keep a tour schedule to pay her debts; her cats are involved in a territorial pissing fight; a good friend is dying of cancer. Eventually she realized the true nature of her search: “Happiness needs to be like a soaking rain, an aquifer, a tucked-away capacity to store enough so that when your friend Martha gets sick, you don’t fade away forever.”
A deeply revealing memoir in which the pathos doesn’t kill the humor—delivers more than it promises.