Book Review: One More Thing by BJ Novak

One More Thing by BJ Novak
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 4, 2014
Source: Borrowed

From an actor, writer, and director of the hit TV comedy The Office (US version): a story collection that was “workshopped” at comedy clubs and bookstores on both coasts.

B.J. Novak’s One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories is an endlessly entertaining, surprisingly sensitive, and startlingly original debut collection that signals the arrival of a welcome new voice in American fiction.

Across a dazzling range of subjects, themes, tones, and narrative voices, Novak’s assured prose and expansive imagination introduce readers to people, places, and premises that are hilarious, insightful, provocative, and moving-often at the same time.

In One More Thing, a boy wins a $100,000 prize in a box of Frosted Flakes – only to discover that claiming the winnings may unravel his family. A woman sets out to seduce motivational speaker Tony Robbins – turning for help to the famed motivator himself. A school principal unveils a bold plan to permanently abolish arithmetic. An acclaimed ambulance driver seeks the courage to follow his heart and throw it all away to be a singer-songwriter. Author John Grisham contemplates a monumental typo. A new arrival in heaven, overwhelmed by infinite options, procrastinates over his long-ago promise to visit his grandmother. We meet a vengeance-minded hare, obsessed with scoring a rematch against the tortoise who ruined his life; and post-college friends who debate how to stage an intervention in the era of Facebook. 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, from the deeply familiar to the intoxicatingly imaginative, One More Thing finds its heart in the most human of phenomena: love, fear, family, ambition, and the inner stirring for the one elusive element that might make a person complete. The stories in this collection are like nothing else, but they have one thing in common: they share the playful humor, deep heart, inquisitive mind, and altogether electrifying spirit of a writer with a fierce devotion to the entertainment of the reader.

If there’s one thing I’m skeptical of, it’s actors getting published. Sometimes it works out pretty well, but most of the time I’m just left disappointed. In the case of One More Thing, I don’t even know how to feel. Like I wasted my time? Kind of offended? Entirely unamused?

The thing is, I think BJ Novak is a good actor. I love The Office. I know he can write because he’s one of the writers on that show. And what he writes on that show is funny. What’s he’s written here is just trying too hard. It’s written like he thinks he’s smart and everyone else is dumb.

There are so many short stories in this collection that I feel like I can’t really go into any depth on any of them. They’ve all blended together in my mind to the point that only two stand out. One good, one bad.

The good? The one about the boy who wins the Frosted Flakes sweepstakes. I did not see that ending coming and thought that it was a really well-written story. The bad? The one about the teacher insisting that the N-word should be used more.

Once I figured out that each story sets a scene and ends in the way you’d least expect, it was much less interesting. The stories became very formulaic and it seemed like Novak was trying so hard to be edgy that he just came off as pretentious.

I think I’ll just stick with watching The Office and ignore whatever else he writes.

#ps19: a book recommended written by a celebrity you admire


Have you read One More Thing? What’s your opinion on actors getting published?
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