My boyfriend and I just finished binge-watching The Mindy Project (Season 1). All 24 episodes in a few days. It’s winter, so that’s what you do. You burrow in your apartment, make some kind of sour cream dip, finish off a bag of chips, and feel no shame. During this time, I came to several realizations. 1) The two of us have an uncanny personality resemblance to Mindy and Danny and 2) I must go buy BJ Novak’s new book. Although these two things don’t seem to be of any relation, they are. I read Mindy Kaling’s book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) the second I unwrapped it (a Christmas gift from said aforementioned boyfriend). It was great. Hilarious, charming, ridiculous, and scientifically proven to produce the same happy chemicals in my body that I would get from a 4 hour Skype conversation from my best friend. With that kind of positive response, I am obviously drawn to reading anything from that end of the comedy camp.
Enter BJ Novak. Former Office writer, actor, executive producer (like Kaling) and former onscreen/offscreen bf (of Kaling) and now bestselling author of the short story collection One More Thing (Knopf)
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the impeccable dance duo from the 30s and 40s are what Mindy and BJ are to modern comedy. I just love them. I love when they cameo in each other’s stuff. I love their tweets. And it doesn’t seem to bother either of them that their creative work has become synonymous with one another, which I also love. A warm, fuzzy, cross-promotional machine. If they ever got married and divorced, it would be no less devastating than the great Poehler and Arnett split of 2012. Anyways, I digress… I watched Mindy Proj, and then immediately made by boyfriend drive me to Chapters so I could buy Novak’s book, which just so happens to be FICTION! Now, I love me some humour essays. Fey, Handler and the forthcoming Poehler (!!), but it’s also exciting to read someone’s imagination, especially when that someone is responsible for producing some of your favourite (fictional) episodes of all time.
SO far, Novak’s stories are everything I expected from him. With a firm handle on the everyday, his vignette-like stories are run-on musings and perceptive rambles about the little moments of life voiced by the little people who live it. Though they also often tackle sweeping themes, like the need for connection, ambition, and natural curiosity. There are a lot of stories in this book (60+!), but most of them are short and concise enough to read a handful before bed. And did I mention clever? Like the opening story “The Rematch”, which introduces us back to that infamous Hare who raced the Tortoise. What is he doing now? Novak tells us. He puts heaven in perspective and dark matter under the microscope. I really enjoyed when one story would borrow a detail from a previous story, stringing them together (i.e.; The Girl Who Gives Great Advice and Craigslist) giving the reader a fun, recurring detail to smile at.
I’m not sure how many of these stories will stay with me. That’s the risk in short stories; which ones will stick and which ones will flutter away between the pages, especially when there are so many. I think Novak’s acute cultural awareness is a real strength though, and many of his stories resonate with timeliness. His language is really contemporary (f-bombs, yo!), so his dialogue and stream-of-consciousness narrative sound like my most eloquent and entertaining friends. Though some stories still read like miniature episodes of a larger idea (The Comedy Central Roast of Nelson Mandela), this is fun book that offers some pretty wise worldly insight that Novak has managed to wrap delicately in some hella wit.
*Not meant to look naked. Even though it kind of does.