I decided to give this book a try for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I saw that One More Page , another wonderful book blogger, had read it and gave it a positive review. Secondly, I was looking for a quick read after the complex, 1000 paged, A Dance With Dragons novel I had just concluded. The temptation of a packet of short stories was too powerful to resist. Lastly, I wanted to find a book that would make me laugh.
Sadly, I can’t even recall the last time I have read a book whose major theme was humor. In my university education we focused on texts about revenge, love and social life that, without a doubt, had some witty or comical scenes. However, I have never encountered a book whose sole purpose was to create silly, outrageous situations that seem so plausible and are lined with realistic, universal themes.
What I absolutely adored was B.J. Novak’s ability to take something completely ordinary and add such a preposterous element to it that initially you can’t do anything but laugh at his audacity. Yet, by the middle of the story you begin questioning whether it was such a hyperbolic element after all. By the end, it’s difficult not to understand the very realistic lesson behind the tale, ever so slightly sprinkled with humour. I just couldn’t put it down.
The author also toys with short story structure; some stories are a mere few lines while others are a few pages. Despite the varying lengths the stories are quality, providing thought provoking questions and theme even in the shortest of tales, see “Being Young Was Her Thing”. He also brings his voice to the pages when he poses discussion style questions to the reader, as he did after “Pick A Lane”. The author’s presence is therefore felt in a few of the tales.
The characters were wonderful; true to themselves, clever, even though they themselves didn’t realize it, and very intriguing. The sheer number of different persons, which actually sometimes permeated into different stories, was also refreshing and kept me reading. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help noticing a few characters resembling certain roles from the American TV show The Office, a show in which B.J. Novak both helped produce and acted in.
Not sure if that was intentional or accidental by the author. The short stories themselves sometimes read/appeared like a TV show, or movie scene in my head. Maybe it is because I knew he was involved in film production and I saw the “trailer” for this book. It was certainly a foreign feeling that occasionally caught me off guard. Rarely, do I know how the author looks like, how they behave, let alone their past and perhaps it was being unfamiliar with the author that enabled me to read the text on its own and not associate it with the author’s past projects.
Even though this compilation of short stories is quite often drole, credit must be given to the author for being such a genuine storyteller. The text remains a piece of literature, and on multiple occasions I was struck with his simplistic yet intriguing diction. Many of the stories have truths hidden within them, take “MONSTER: The Roller Coaster” for example, yet then the reader is roped back into the comedy with stories such as “if You Love Something”. He proves to be extremely versatile, and even surprisingly sensitive in many of his stories.
Verdict: I was very impressed with this compilation, each one bringing along new emotions, themes, characters, situations, observations; all with a humorous twist. I would most definitely recommend giving this a read, it’s light and easy to follow/enjoy which makes it a perfect read for any occasion.
Favourites: “Julie and the Warlord”; “ ‘Rithmetic”; “The Man Who Invented the Calendar”; “MONSTER: The Roller Coaster”; “The Market Was Down”; “Pick A Lane”; “Constructive Criticism”
Have you read this book? Are you planning to? Sounds similar to a book you have read before? I am excited to find more books like these, so please write down your recommendations!