Let’s forget about the movie adaptation of Yes Man for a minute – I’ve recently finished reading Danny Wallace‘s original book.
In case you missed it, Yes Man is Danny Wallace’s book about how he realised that he was living negatively and – after being inspired by a chance meeting on a bus – decided to blindly accept every invitation and suggestion he received for about a year.
What happens next is a bizarre string of incidents brought about by Danny’s adherence to his ‘say yes to everything rule’. Of course, it requires a little bit of amending about halfway through, or else he’d have ended up in the hands of Nigerian 419 scammers, but on the whole, Wallace agrees to virtually every kind of social engagement and invitation.
Now, if it were me writing this book, I’d be doing the whole experiment out of spite. Wallace handles the whole thing with a light-hearted naivety that’s almost as charming as it is funny.
One review I read a few weeks ago (but sadly can’t find now) accused Wallace of mistaking a clever pub anecdote for a career in comedy. I thought that was quite a cruel comment at the time, although upon finishing the book, there’s a feeling that Wallace might have exaggerated some of the facts. Certainly, the book suffers in flow somewhat when Danny labours certain points, perhaps waxing philosophical on too many occassions.
The real fun though is in the stories – like the time he met his ex-girlfriend when she was out on a date. The new boyfriend politely invites Danny to join them, expecting him to politely decline. But, held by his obligation to say yes, he joins them and makes a complete ass of himself.
Along the way, he also gains a powerful enemy who knows his secret and sends him challenges to go to obscure places. Like Stonehenge.
Of course, the overarching theme of the book is that it’s easy to slip into comfortable patterns of negativity. Wallace’s tale shows that the fear of saying yes can stop you from letting so many interesting experiences into your life. And when he’s telling his stories, the point comes across very well. There’s just a little too much pontificating in between though, and that’s what dampens the fun of the book.
All the same, I can’t complain too much, because you really start to warm to Danny during his adventures. However, with the amount of importance the pub plays in his tales, I am inspired to suggest that Simon Pegg might have been a better lead character than Jim Carrey and an all-American makeover.
But to sum up, Yes Man is a top yarn, and if I ever meet Danny Wallace down the pub, I’m going to ask him how much of it is real and how much is an exaggerated pub anecdote!