LitStack Review: One More Thing – Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak

by Sharon Browning
One More Thing – Stories and Other StoriesOne More Thing
B. J. Novak
Alfred A. Knopf
Release Date:  February 4, 2014
ISBN 978-0-385-35183-6

Many folks know of B. J. Novak, but don’t realize they know of him.  Most folks probably know him as “Ryan”, the overly confident, curiously inept intern at Dunder Mifflin on American TV’s version of “The Office”; fewer might have realized he was an executive producer, director and writer on the show, as well.  For some, he might have looked familiar teamed up with Jason Schwartzman in Saving Mr. Banks as one of the musical Sherman Brothers; others might have shared perplexed glances at fellow nerd friends upon hearing of his being given the role of Alistair Smythe in the upcoming The Amazing Spiderman 2 (ultimately deciding that it might work out okay, that the real concern is whether or not Jesse Eisenberg can pull off portraying Lex Luthor in the yet to be named Batman vs Superman movie).

At any rate, with his acting and television writing and producing credits, who would have thought B. J. Novak would have time to be a bona fide author, as well?  But his first book (out of a two book deal with publishing house Alfred A. Knopf, reportedly in a deal worth seven figures), a collection of witty and sometimes pithy short stories, does indeed establish him as a nimble, entertaining writer.  A flash in the pan?  Possibly; but I truly enjoyed this book of stories, laughing at many, sighing with some, and almost always chuckling at the effortless cleverness of the writing, and at how the stories hung together in a way that, although separate, nevertheless made them feel part of a greater whole.  All 60+ of them.

CHILD:  “Why does carrot cake have the best icing?”
MOTHER:  “Because it needs the best icing.”

As a young man well entrenched in the entertainment industry, one would expect B. J. Novak to reflect a young, entertaining thrum to his writing, and that is exactly what he does.  The stories, for the most part, are indeed short (a few could certainly be worthy candidates for hitRECord’s next volume of Tiny Book of Tiny Stories), but they all accomplish exactly what he has set out to do.  Why belabor your point if it’s been made, eh?

He’s also not shy about invoking pop culture and celebrity names, even sometimes writing from their points of view, names like  John Grisham, Johnny Depp, Tony Robbins, Chris Hansen and Justin Bieber, Kate Moss, Nelson Mandela, others.  Even Elvis; of course, Elvis.  (Oh, and John Stamos, for those who look.)  But it’s not just a name-dropping, Hollywood gabfest.  There is a pith to the stories, as well, a “did he just say that?” sort of chuckle.

In many of the stories, the reader might recognize some of their own idle thoughts and musings, but brought to a clever and often razor sharp realization.  For instance, what would be the true profit margin if you really did have a nickel for every time you spilled a cup of coffee?  Would you be able to live on the payout?  And would it really – really – be all that great to go to the moon?  It would be great to be there, sure, but to actually have to go through all the hassles of getting there?  And what does it truly mean when the pundits say that “the market was down today”?

If the market never existed, would anyone miss it?  Would anything really be different?  Did anyone actually really care about the market, or did they just think they could make money from it?  And then there were all those people who said they hated the market, and they always seemed so much cooler and better looking than the people who liked the market – were those people right?  Were they on to something?  Was the market soulless?  Evil?  Pointless?  Harmful?  Bad?

The market calmed down for a minute when it pictured Warren Buffett.  What an undeniably warm, wise, lovely man Warren Buffett was!  And he sure loved the market.  With all his heart, without question.  That made the market feel better.

Sure, there were some stories that weren’t exactly successful; some that were crass, a few that were just plain smarmy.  But for the most part, I truly enjoyed One More Thing – Stories and Other Stories, and I appreciated being able to spend snippets of time being joyfully entertained.

And honestly, there were a few times where I went, “awwwww”, because the stories caught me off guard in how touching they were, how clever and honest and delightful they were.  Those few times, when I actually went, “awwwww” after reading a story?  Well, that was just icing on the cake.  Carrot cake.  Must have been, because that was the best icing of all.

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