B.J. Novak’s One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories is an endlessly entertaining, surprisingly sensitive, and startlingly original debut that signals the arrival of a brilliant new voice in American fiction.
A boy wins a $100,000 prize in a box of Frosted Flakes—only to discover how claiming the winnings might unravel his family. A woman sets out to seduce motivational speaker Tony Robbins—turning for help to the famed motivator himself. A new arrival in Heaven, overwhelmed with options, procrastinates over a long-ago promise to visit his grandmother. We also meet Sophia, the first artificially intelligent being capable of love, who falls for a man who might not be ready for it himself; a vengeance-minded hare, obsessed with scoring a rematch against the tortoise who ruined his life; and post-college friends who try to figure out how to host an intervention in the era of Facebook. Along the way, 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, One More Thing has at its heart the most human of phenomena: love, fear, hope, ambition, and the inner stirring for the one elusive element that might just make a person complete. Across a dazzling range of subjects, themes, tones, and narrative voices, the many pieces in this collection are like nothing else, but they have one thing in common: they share the playful humor, deep heart, sharp eye, inquisitive mind, and altogether electrifying spirit of a writer with a fierce devotion to the entertainment of the reader. – Goodreads
I don’t usually read short stories. I prefer full-length novels that allow me to really get to know a set of characters, become involved in their lives and root for the outcome. It’s rare to find a short story that can live up to this (and this is why writing short stories is often more challenging in its way than writing a full novel). But I had read nothing but praise for this book when it was first released, so when I had the chance to review it, I jumped. And man, am I glad I did.
This book has some of my favourite things in it: no small measure of humour, creative re-imaginings of well-known stories and pop culture, and clever twists. Some of the stories in this book are only a few lines long, and yet, they are perfect. Here’s an example (this is a story from the book, so if you prefer not to have any of this wonderful experience spoiled for you, skip ahead now):
If You Love Something
If you love something, let it go.
If you don’t love something, definitely let it go.
Basically, just drop everything, who cares. – p. 205
In the end, I found that I liked most of the stories being short (to very short). It meant that if I wasn’t enthralled by the premise, that’s okay, because in just a few pages I’d be on to the next. Of course, that very rarely happened. Because that’s the way life works. But I did appreciate the lack of required commitment, and it was a refreshing change from the full-length novels I’ve been reading lately.
It seems fitting to make this a short review so I’m going to leave you with my highest recommendation, and an urge to pick up this book as soon as possible, regardless of how you may feel about short stories. (Okay, fine, that’s all I have to say.)
Author: B.J. Novak
Published By: Vintage
Released: February 3, 2015
Genre: Fiction, Short Stories, Humour
Date Read: February 19-28, 2015