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One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 4, 2014
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This Hardcover First Edition of One More Thing has been personally Autographed by B.J. Novak. Exclusively Made Available at PremiereCollectibles.com.
B.J. Novak's One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories is an endlessly entertaining, surprisingly sensitive, and startlingly original debut that signals the arrival of a brilliant new voice in American fiction.
A boy wins a $100,000 prize in a box of Frosted Flakes—only to discover that claiming the winnings might unravel his family. A woman sets out to seduce motivational speaker Tony Robbins—turning for help to the famed motivator himself. A new arrival in Heaven, overwhelmed with options, procrastinates over a long-ago promise to visit his grandmother. We meet Sophia, the first artificially intelligent being capable of love, who falls for a man who might not be ready for it himself; a vengeance-minded hare, obsessed with scoring a rematch against the tortoise who ruined his life; and post-college friends who try to figure out how to host an intervention in the era of Facebook. Along the way, we learn why wearing a red T-shirt every day is the key to finding love, how February got its name, and why the stock market is sometimes just . . . down.
Finding inspiration in questions from the nature of perfection to the icing on carrot cake, One More Thinghas at its heart the most human of phenomena: love, fear, hope, ambition, and the inner stirring for the one elusive element just that might make a person complete. Across a dazzling range of subjects, themes, tones, and narrative voices, the many pieces in this collection are like nothing else, but they have one thing in common: they share the playful humor, deep heart, sharp eye, inquisitive mind, and altogether electrifying spirit of a writer with a fierce devotion to the entertainment of the reader.
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For a change of pace from my usual genre reading I checked this book out of the library.
B.J. Novak, the author of this collection of short stories, anecdotes, and random thoughts is probably best known for playing Ryan Howard on the popular TV series "The Office". He was also a writer and executive producer on the show and has appeared in a number of Hollywood movies.
Most of the stories in the collection are humorous and some are thought-provoking. One story that made me smile is called "The Something by John Grisham". In this tale John Grisham sends his new editor a manuscript that he provisionally calls 'The Something' because he hasn't decided on a title. Next thing Grisham knows his book, named 'The Something', is #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List, courtesy of the inexperienced editor. Mortifying for the perfectionist author.
The story "The Comedy Central Roast of Nelson Mandela" is clever and fun. Comedians Jeff Ross, Lisa Lampenelli, Sarah Silverman and others poke gentle fun at the iconic anti-apartheid acitivist and President of South Africa - with a few embarassing missteps along the way. Afterwards Mandela shows some humor chops of his own.
In "No One Goes to Heaven to See Dan Fogelberg", a deceased couple in Heaven can hardly decide on a concert to attend since famous dead musicians give free concerts every night. After a Frank Sinatra concert, the duo finally get to see hubby's elusive Grandma - who has better things to do in Heaven than visit with relatives.
In the story "Kellogg's", a young boy wins a $100,000 prize in a box of sugary name-brand cereal that's forbidden in his home. When the lad's parents refuse to claim the prize he sneaks off to Kellogg's headquarters to get his winnings. There he meets an executive who tells the boy he can't have the prize because he's related to a Kellogg's employee. Turns out the executive is the kid's real dad! Lots of food for thought in this story.
In "Sophia", a man orders a sex robot, then returns her when she falls in love with him. He's soon being kidded by anyone and everyone - on late night TV, the news, and social media. This part is very funny. Later, the robot tries to change the man's mind and he tries to explain that she'll get over him.
Some anecdotes have oblique follow-ups later in the book. In a story called "All You Have To Do" a young man wears a bright red t-shirt every day. He hopes that some gal might like the look of him and try to locate him via social media. So far, he's had no luck at all. In a later story titled "Missed Connection...." a girl who had a romantic night with a stranger is heartbroken because he never came back. As it happens, the fellow was wearing a red shirt.
The book contains many more entries, some a few pages long, some composed only of a sentence or two. B.J. Novak has an offbeat sense of humor that won't appeal to everyone. I liked some parts of the book better than others, but overall I found the stories entertaining. I wouldn't buy the book (for one thing a lot of the stories are available online)....but it's certainly worth getting from the library.
If Novak loads his gun with birdshot and shoots, some of it is bound to hit, but there will be misses too. Surprisingly few, though. Most of the very short pieces are worth at least a chuckle: "If you love something, let it go. If you don't love something, definitely let it go. Basically, just drop everything, who cares." Yet even that gets you thinking about pop-psych cliches. Novak loves to shock, then to switch it to positive ends. So one very short story begins "We need a new Hitler," but a Hitler who would use his force of will for things like education and health-care, and hopefully wouldn't be called Hitler anyhow, "because I think people might find that distracting." Sometimes he is absurdly anarchic; one story, "Julie and the Warlord," is just that, one of those painful first-date conversations with the girl asking what the guy does, and he replies that, as a Congolese warlord, he has to bribe, kidnap, torture, rape, and kill. All in the tones of polite restaurant conversation, until the ending: "Discussion question: Do you think Julie should [have sex with] the warlord? Why or why not?"
Quite a few stories use real celebrities. The artist Christo employs a focus group to design a roller-coaster. Author John Grisham obsesses about a word in his jacket-flap bio. "To Catch a Predator" host Chris Hansen worries about taking his daughter to a Justin Bieber concert. A girl tells motivational speaker Tony Robbins that she wants to sleep with him, but has to go through his prescriptive regimen in order to do so -- by which time, she has acquired a stronger sense of herself, and no longer wants to. The lollapalooza of these is "The Comedy Central Roast of Nelson Mandela," but I didn't enjoy it -- not because I was shocked, but because I didn't know many of the media celebrities who were the speakers.
Novak, now known as a television actor and writer, has a Harvard degree in English. Several of the best stories explore the nature of literature itself. In one, an editor at Bantam Classics interviews a visitor whom he assumes will make the usual request, to remove the n-word from school editions of HUCKLEBERRY FINN. But in fact the man is Mark Twain himself, returning as a ghost, and his request is quite a different one. The best story of all in the book for my money is an explicit homage to a figure who has been lurking behind much of this collection all along, Jorge Luis Borges. Even the title of "J. C. Audetat, Translator of Don Quixote" is a tip of the hat to one of Borges' most famous stories, but Novak takes the idea in the opposite direction. Instead of submerging himself totally in Cervantes' life and era, like Borges' Pierre Menard, Audetat brings him strikingly into the modern age, doing this again for other world classics in other languages, even when translation would seem to be unnecessary. Not only does Novak offer comparative samples from a standard translation and Audetat's, he gives a wide range of critical reactions to each publication, spot-on parodies of the real critics attributed. This is one story to needs to be taken out of the bathroom into the library because, though just as amusing as the others, it had an intellectual seriousness that they only hinted at. I will certainly read Novak again, but only if he applies his brilliance to subjects of greater specific gravity. I have had enough chocolates.
Most recent customer reviews
I Barely got through it. Not at all what I expected.