Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #141: Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America by Leslie Knope

Parks & Recreation

I probably place more hold requests than any other patron of theirs and every librarian knows me by name, yet I can count on one hand the number of times they’ve engaged me in conversation. So far, I’ve had two noteworthy back-and-forths, one relating to Stephen King when I aimed to put a hold on The Green Mile, then another when I went to pick up Pawnee. “I love her,” the librarian offered. I took the bait, professing my own love for her and the show that inspired the book she was holding. To my surprise, she steered the conversation to another favorite from NBC, Community, questioning whether I knew when it was due back. Granted, she knew it only as the show “about the community college kids,” but with a show that’s constantly been facing cancellation on account of low ratings, that she even had a passing knowledge of the show’s existence, a librarian no less, was something to be celebrated. I’m no longer ignorant enough to honestly believe teachers don’t have lives outside of school. I learned long ago that they are people too, no different from you and I. Librarians, on the other hand, still seem alien to me. Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz series very well could be the non-fiction it masquerades as, because I have always noticed something off about librarians, at least those at the public library here in Butler. At the very least, they seem to harbor a resentment for the human race that doesn’t seem in keeping with them being part of it. How could I have something in common with these women that sound sapped of all life and joy?

Could it be that they watch Parks and Recreation, thinking they’ll acquire hearts by a form of osmosis? It is the sincerest show I’ve ever seen. If it were a product distributed by Sweetums, its sugar content would actually manage to be higher than everything they already sell, it’s that sweet. The day I run into someone who hates the show will be the day I do my best impression of the following face.


It took me longer to find that than it rightly should’ve. As I was saying, if you hate on Parks and Recreation in my presence, you are dead to me, done and Dunn. You’ll be lucky if I don’t also do my best impression of Leslie after Anne tells her she’s moving away from Pawnee.

Now, those who aren’t dead to me, why are you reading this and notPawnee? Reading it is like spending the day with Leslie and all her friends (plus some enemies). In other words, like a written version of an episode of Parks and Recreation. This isn’t another Heat Wave, a tie in that can’t quite replicate the feel  and quality of its respective show, it’s another How to Archer, a natural extension of a fictitious world that the writers know as well as their own. Even better than that,Pawnee gives you a deeper look into the titular town and its inhabitants than we’ve gotten in over five seasons of Parks and Recreation. This isn’t just a love letter to Pawnee, it’s also a love letter to the people who live there. On top of all that, it reads like a thank you to the fans. Parks and Recreation, like Community, has never been a surefire renewal, so you have to think that Pawnee was written in part to help with the grieving process if it ever were cancelled.

Thankfully, Parks and Recreation hasn’t gotten the ax yet, and looks to be in a more comfortable position than ever before as NBC’s last remaining flagship series following the conclusion of The Office. The network as a whole is scrambling to fill holes as is, so at this point it can’t really afford to drop Parks and Recreation, the only ship left that isn’t flagging considerably. That being said, another book, maybe a sequel on Pawnee now that it’s incorporated Eagleton, would still be nice.

2 thoughts on “Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #141: Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America by Leslie Knope

  1. Side note, if you want a journey in to the dark heart of a librarian, Jincy Willett’s odd duck of a book ‘Winner of the National Book Award’ is worth checking out (also, your librarians are clearly very different to the ones I used to go drinking and to punk gigs with in NZ).

    • I can’t visualize any of the librarians here going out and doing any sort of merrymaking. It’s rare that I even see any of them smile. They’re sort of like Ron Swanson in that they almost always have that half-scowl permanently affixed to their faces, and in that I can see them having some warmth underneath that hard exterior… just buried even deeper than Ron’s. A couple, though, do seem like much happier people than the rest. Still not anyone I could see going out drinking and to punk gigs, however.

      And Jincy Willett should’ve won the National Book Award for that. Can you imagine it? Winner of the National Book Award by Jincy Willett, Winner of the National Book Award. No, forget “by Jincy Willett.” I prefer the more redundant-sounding sentence. “Winner of the National Book Award, Winner of the National Book Award.” Added to my to-read list. Thanks for the recommendation!

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