Once loved by Dave Eggers, Neal Pollack (pictured) used to be as funny as Toby Young (or as funny as Young was in his How to Lose Friends and Alienate People days). But when the author found himself gaining weight and earning terrible reviews from The New York Times, he did what any New Ager might do: he picked up yoga in hopes of a better life – and, presumably, stellar reviews for this book, which chronicles the process.
Spending more than 300 pages with Pollack yammering on about hatha is about as funny as watching a beginner try ashtanga: it’s mostly slow and clumsy, with a few moments of impressive fluidity scattered throughout. The humourist does manage a sometimes fantastic fillet of the spiritual practice and shows us how the intersection of California and flexible women often results in a cesspool of vapidity. And a visiting New Yorker confirms our collective intensity: ‘Do you do it once or twice a day?’ she asks (his mental response is, ‘If by “day” she meant “week,” then the answer was once’).
Despite a lack of commitment, Pollack eventually goes from a balding, overweight sad lad to a blissed-out yogi. But by the time this happens, you won’t cheer. After a complete bro-out – ogling teachers who resemble Jennifer Aniston, farting in class, spouting heavy-handed hatred of something the author so clearly loves – the whole thing feels like a farce. It’s crammed with overwrought conflict, as if this is the first time man and yoga have existed together. By the end of Pollack’s bellyaching, you’ll probably enjoy yoga class, but mostly because your classmates will stay silent. Kurt Soller