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One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – February 3, 2015
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*Starred Review* Novak’s high-concept, hilarious, and disarmingly commiserative fiction debut stems from his stand-up performances and his Emmy Award–winning work on the comedy series, The Office, as writer, actor, director, and executive producer. Accordingly, his more concise stories come across as brainy comedy bits, while his sustained tales covertly encompass deep emotional and psychological dimensions. An adept zeitgeist miner, Novak excels at topsy-turvy improvisations on a dizzying array of subjects, from Aesop’s fables to tabloid Elvis to our oracular enthrallment to the stock market. A master of cringe, Novak imagines a blind date with a warlord, a Comedy Central TV roast of Nelson Mandela, and a mortifying misunderstanding between mega-best-selling novelist John Grisham and his new editor. Writing with zing and humor in the spirit of Woody Allen and Steve Martin, Novak also ventures into the realm of George Saunders and David Foster Wallace. A boy wins a breakfast-cereal contest and discovers a shocking family secret. A sex robot falls in love. A man reveals the heartbreak behind the universally dreaded math problem about the two trains leaving the stations at different times. Baseline clever and fresh, at best spectacularly perceptive, and always commanding, Novak’s ingeniously ambushing stories of longing, fear, pretension, and confusion reveal the quintessential absurdities and transcendent beauty of our catch-as-catch-can lives. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Novak’s television fame is an instant lure, one that will be pitched far and wide as Novak appears on major talk shows and travels to 20 cities in concert with an immense print and online ad campaign. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
"It isn’t easy to make a reader laugh out loud. Even when confronted with the sharpest, funniest prose, many people will respond with nothing more than a quiet chuckle. . . . Whatever the reason, all I can say is good luck chuckling quietly during One More Thing, the wonderfully cockeyed, consistently hilarious debut from B.J. Novak. . . . Given his background in TV comedy writing as well as stand-up, it’s not surprising that Novak knows how to stick a great line or milk a funny premise with the right amount of squeeze. What’s more striking is the wild imagination he brings to these pages, taking familiar narrative constructs — a woman and a man on a blind date — and infusing them with the unexpected. . . . His style is part Steven Wright and part Charlie Kaufman, married with a sharp ear for (and satire of) contemporary pop culture. . . . . A gifted observer of the human condition and a very funny writer capable of winning that rare thing: unselfconscious, insuppressible laughter.”--Jen Chaney, The Washington Post
“In one of the longer entries in his very funny debut collection of stories, B. J. Novak describes a writer and translator named J. C. Audetat, who has a gift for ‘the off-the-cuff vernacular of his day’—or what might be called ‘the poetry of everyday conversations.’. . . The same might be said of Mr. Novak, whose athletic imagination and ear for ‘the language of his own time and place (that is, the vernacular of that 21st-century genus of young, hip Americans, known to frequent urban habitats on the East and West Coasts) are showcased in this volume. . . . Mr. Novak has an idiosyncratic voice that’s distinctively his own, though One More Thing will also produce lots of comparisons to other writers. His more fully developed stories have a sense of the absurdities—and sadnesses—of contemporary American life reminiscent of George Saunders’s short fiction. Others will more likely elicit comparisons to David Sedaris’s books (without the curmudgeonly persona), Steve Martin’s prose pieces (with less conceptual strangeness) and Woody Allen’s Without Feathers and Side Effects (with less emphasis on big, existential questions). . . . Mr. Novak is nimble at showing how easily the ordinary can morph into the extraordinary and adept at making us see the surreal in the everyday. . . A funny writer with a great ear, but also as a genuine storyteller with an observant eye and finely tuned emotional radar.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“B.J. Novak meets--no, exceeds--expectations in ONE MORE THING, firmly establishing him as one of the best humor writers around. . . . The varied length of the stories adds to the pleasure--it's like sampling a multicourse meal instead of gorging just on pizza. . . . Novak's writing mirrors his acting in that both rely on dry wit and dead-pan delivery. His influences run from celebrated New Yorker humorist James Thurber to Steve Martin to the Harvard Lampoon style of comedy (no wonder, as Novak was a member of the publication in college) to stand-up comedian Steven Wright. But he synthesizes those influences and has delivered something wholly original. . . . The longer stories avoid easy laugh-out-loud punch lines in favor of quirky, offbeat twists that showcase his skill as a storyteller. . . . Novak has found success as an actor, screenwriter and producer, but it turns out that the “one more thing” he added to his résumé--author--might be where his greatest talent lies.”—Andy Lewis, The Hollywood Reporter
“Novak’s high-concept, hilarious, and disarmingly commiserative fiction debut stems from his stand-up performances and his Emmy Award–winning work on the comedy series, The Office. . . . Accordingly, his more concise stories come across as brainy comedy bits, while his sustained tales covertly encompass deep emotional and psychological dimensions. An adept zeitgeist miner, Novak excels at topsy-turvy improvisations on a dizzying array of subjects, from Aesop’s fables to tabloid Elvis to our oracular enthrallment to the stock market. . . . Writing with zing and humor in the spirit of Woody Allen and Steve Martin, Novak also ventures into the realm of George Saunders and David Foster Wallace. . . . Baseline clever and fresh, at best spectacularly perceptive, and always commanding, Novak’s ingeniously ambushing stories of longing, fear, pretension, and confusion reveal the quintessential absurdities and transcendent beauty of our catchas-catch-can lives.” —Booklist, starred review
“Novak’s debut contains a buckshot 64 fun and funny short stories crammed into a single volume. Part Etgar Keret, part McSweeney’s, these tidy tales from the alum of TV’s The Office depart from the ‘how I became famous’ comedian’s biography for a decidedly more literary turn. . . . The bulk of Novak’s stories are comedic, and more than a few are surprisingly tender. . . . Written by an author in complete control of his craft.”—Publishers Weekly
"Everyone knew that B.J. Novak was smart and sexy, but funny, too!? Wow, screw that guy. I haven't laughed at words this hard since I read."—Joshua Ferris author of The Unnamed and Then We Came to the End
"ONE MORE THING is a funny and inventive debut collection, infused with a deadpan absurdist wit reminiscent of Woody Allen and Ian Frazier. B.J. Novak's stories are sly and playful, but they can pack a real emotional wallop." —Tom Perrotta, author of Nine Inches
"I am so relieved that I had not read B.J.'s book before I worked with him. I would just have spent every day at his feet instead of doing my job." —Emma Thompson
"Dark and hilarious, like the fudge Grandma used to make during her 'special' period. Deliciously funny!" —Jack Handey, author of Deep Thoughts and The Stench of Honolulu
"B.J. blew me away. He just keeps kicking short fiction in the rear, making it run ahead clutching its ass, and then he runs up and kicks it some more, and the result is one of the most aggressively, insanely awesome debuts in a while." —Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story
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Top Customer Reviews
And then there were certain stories where I found myself losing interest - they didn't necessarily fit with the theme of the book as a whole (if there is one). The longer pieces, such as the brilliant translator Audetat, or the final piece: I felt were just the cerebral muscle flexes of someone trying to prove they have the chops to be a short story novelist.
This is a dessert book; I found myself engrossed at times, but other times I found myself struggling to get through. Quick to get through, but also quick to forget as well.
When it arrived, I read the book cover to cover in one sitting. The unpredictable tones from one story to the next, along with the well-constructed flow of the book as a whole, prevented me from ever losing interest.
What I enjoyed most were the moments when Novak was able to perfectly capture and convey things I've thought about people or places in passing; things that I thought were quirky or odd. It's as if he had the same experiences, sat down, and found a way to transform a fleeting moment into a relatable, entertaining story.
Of course there were a few stories that I wouldn't miss if they hadn't made into the book, but they were still a decent read, and short anyways. I felt perhaps they were there more for pacing between the heavier-hitting stories.
Overall I think it's a collection of stories that anyone could enjoy and I look forward to more of Novak's creativity in the future.
However, in reading Novak's collection, it suddenly occurred to me that in many ways, a good short story is like a well told joke. You have an intro, a build-up and a punch-line...not necessarily funny, but the more provocative the better. And if it does make you chuckle, where's the harm in that? Especially if you see it leading there all along and like the good 'laugher' in the comedy club, you surrender to the fun.
Novak's experience in stand-up has certainly taught him how to tell a story well. His wry observations of current culture will make you want to share. I predict the term 'recalculating' as he employed it will soon be as over-used as the ubiquitous 'awesome'. Or perhaps it already is in some circles and he is first to point it out. You will see yourself or people you know in this collection—as well as celebrities—brought down to earth with foibles exposed. Somehow though, as with all great storytellers, their humanity does not make them tragic heroes, but lovable ones.
I am nearly always disappointed with fictional “short story” books, but this was the exception to the rule. This book made me laugh in the most unexpected of places. There were little subtleties that made it fun — you could connect some of the stories if you paid attention. Also, having just finished my first watch of The Office, I can see where the show got some of its off-kilter, “who thinks of these things” humor. I’ll most-likely read this again, which I don’t say about most books.
There are some adult themes throughout the book, so reader-beware. But it is overall a funny, though-provoking collection of stories and musings.
Also, there is a great podcast from Studio Q where BJ Novak explains his process in writing this book that is definitely worth a listen!