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Posts Tagged ‘One More Thing; B.J. Novak; Stories and Other Stories; book’

One More Thing–a book consideration

Posted by joeabbott on July 30, 2017

Image result for one more thing novakI’m not calling this a book review … I just don’t have the chops to give this book fair assessment in my current mood, but I will consider it; come along!

B.J. Novak is perhaps best known for his work with a television program called The Office, a show on which he was a writer, director, producer and actor. That’s a lotta hats for a guy I only knew as Ryan Howard, the temp worker in the series. But, after reading One More Thing; Stories and Other Stories, I now know Novak as an author.

I read One More Thing on the bus ride to and from work every day, always looking forward to the amusing stories but mostly for how Novak wrote: his style is unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s taken me a bit of thinking, but I believe it’s the references he uses, the language of the day, or maybe his willingness to write things I haven’t read before. He intimately gets into the heads of his characters but can also hold them at arm’s length to talk about them dispassionately. The novelty is lovely and compelled me to read one story after another.

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I mention that he uses references … by this I mean he’ll write a story that uses a personality I know and position them in odd situations as a main character. Johnny Depp, Tony Robbins, and others (many in a “Nelson Mandela roast”) have speaking lines and thoughts … making it a queer sorta “can he do that” moment for me to process. While I know little to nothing about most celebrities, I’m struck less by a “did that happen” thought than a “that seems plausible within the realm of comedy that may happen” and part of the tickle I get from the stories come from this.

By “language of the day” I not only mean the current vernacular but also what he writes about. He’s unabashed in dropping the F-bomb but isn’t using it as a shock mechanism that turns a person (or maybe it would just be me) off. The first time I caught the word I wondered if this would be “one of those books” but it was used sparingly and within character and affords the writing a bit of street cred over the carpet bombing usage that some writers opt for. Perhaps this is just a reflection of the company I keep and it not being the go-to word for impact and effect.

More than usage is just the things he writes about. In a retelling of the Tortoise and the Hare story (yes, the Aesop Fable), he takes us into the psyche of the Hare after losing the race, Another story that had me reeling was Julie and the Warlord in which we get a peek into what appears to be a blind date between a young lady and a literal warlord from war-torn middle-Africa. The concept is bizarre, the conversation banal, and the absurdity had my mind figuratively gasping like a literal fish out of water. “What??” was the thought going through my head.

This sort of treatment is given to implausible scenarios as well as “that could happen” pieces … enter “The Something” by John Grisham in which the titular author sends a draft copy of a book to his editors who release the novel under a placeholder name. The book sells as a Grisham novel would but we enjoy the thoughts and conversations from Grisham that explore his contrived vanity, artistic sensibility, and other emotions. Again, bizarre but entertaining nonetheless.

Who would consider writing about such things?

Well, Novak, for one. And he does it a lot … overall the book is some 64 stories spread over 275-ish pages. The shortest stories are barely three sentences where a few of the longer ones span 15 pages … so none are novellas and the change in length helps to add both novelty and interest in flipping the pages to get to the next story and enjoy that curious nugget. At the risk of violating a copyright or something, I’ll share one of his stories: Romance, Chapter One

“The cute one?”

“No, the other cute one.”

“Oh, she’s cute, too.”

And that’s it. On one hand I want a little more heavy lifting from my authors, but as a single story from over five dozen, it’s a fine addition. My mind swirls to flesh out the speakers, I place them in a scenario that’s fitting, I wonder if such an exchange might be realistic (and come away thinking it probable), and overall I’m entertained by something fairly simplistic. Who would include a story like this in his novel? Again … Novak, B.J. Novak.

This isn’t great literature but it does introduce me to a writing style I find unique and compelling. While I likely won’t reread the book, I’m happy to have had the first reading. Thanks for the entertainment, B.J. I’m looking forward to picking up your next novel.

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