Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Review: One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories
Unpopular opinion time: I'm not a huge fan of The Office. My family used to watch it together - not even in real time, when it was still on TV, but after purchasing those huge, clunky collection of DVDs each season! I'd usually wander out of the room ten minutes into each episode to go upstairs and find a less cringe-inducing form of entertainment, like a good book... so it's highly ironic how two of the show's stars - Mindy Kaling and BJ Novak - would end up being two of my favorite writers!
I've had Novak's One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, on the shelves for a long time, simply because short story collections have never really been my cup of tea. However, after tackling Kaling's Why Not Me? this past April, I knew I was going to have to bump it up in my TBR queue. I'm so glad I did: what I found was a perfectly balanced blend of levity and brevity, and I zipped through the whole collection in one night!
So, in reviewing, let's start by tackling the obvious: this book is supremely funny. Like, catch-yourself-laughing-out-loud, Snapchatting-pictures-of-pages-to-my-sister funny. However, even beyond the silly and subversive, it's also the kind of humor that knows exactly how it's making you laugh, in a subtle and almost tongue-in-cheek way: the funny is found without the self-knowing moments of a punchline in a comedy act, but more like a friend just telling you a really hilarious story over drinks. I guess I could say that it was more of conversation, than strictly comedy; just very understated, almost like it's winking at you about it at the same time it's laying out the joke.
The stories are, of course, of varying lengths, and also contain varying levels of comedy. Some are a little more edgy and gasp-inducing, while others are almost existential, making you really consider the theming and how it plays with the rest of the narratives around them. It was really some of those secondary types of stories that caught my attention: it's easy to make someone laugh, but not as easy to make someone think while they're doing it. Thought you might even be tempted to skip around the book a little for the ones you really want to read first, you're going to end up reading them all, and laugh at least a little at each (even those that are a little more on the long side).
And, of course, the cerebral nature of some of Novak's comedy really forces you to acknowledge the fact that he is smart. Not just clever in how he constructs each narrative, or how he arranges them in the greater pacing of the collection, but intelligent in choice of subject matter and style of writing (without coming off as pretentious). Also, his ability to craft an arc over the course of the entirety of the collection is superb: characters and highlights from one story might end up in another one several dozen pages later, while the flows between the subject matter of each tale never got me bogged down within the context of the work as a whole.
Final Verdict: Let's be real, we all knew this book was going to be hilarious, simply from the absolute perfection of the book trailer alone. I am incredibly impressed and look forward to reading more of his work... and I can totally see why he and Mindy Kaling are such amazing friends!
You guys... I haven't done a review - and honest-to-goodness, full-length review - since I tackled Patrick Ness' The Rest of Us Just Live Here this past May! Have you missed them? Let me know, in the comments below!