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Review: One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories

The Office actor swaggers into the lit world

Courtesy of Knopf

February 20, 2014 | 12:00 a.m. CST

B.J. Novak is recognizable for his role as temp Ryan Howard on the Emmy-award winning comedy show The Office, or maybe even his small part in Inglourious Basterds. What you might not know is that he has written a deliciously witty short fiction novel called One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories that not only makes you laugh but also forces you to consider life’s serious side in a different way.

Fans of David Sedaris and Woody Allen should connect to Novak’s writing because of the dry, comedic tone. The collection of short stories is introduced by a classic tale with a twist as the hare looks for athletic redemption against the tortoise. Other stories feel like lines straight out of Dwight Schrute’s playbook, like when a character tries to erase the existence of an ex. The book’s trailer gave the reader a sneak peek into Novak’s smart and delightfully different approach to prose.

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories

Publisher: Knopf
Cost: $24.95
Released: Feb. 4

In the trailer, he pokes fun at his attempts to break into the sophisticated world of storytelling as he tries to win over the completely unimpressed Mindy Kaling. She doesn’t think he’s worth a second glance and has no problem telling him so before breaking character to talk about the new GQ cover featuring Rihanna. The full trailer is a cool, charming and clever preview into the kind of book Novak created. See it online at VoxMagazine.com.

Novak lets his comedic style shine while leaving plenty of room for thoughtful interludes. Some are no more than a few paragraphs but retain strong narration of individuality and inventiveness, such as the one about a grandson who tries to visit his grandmother in heaven, but she keeps cancelling their meetings. Novak tugs at the reader’s heartstrings by focusing on life issues such as love, fear, determination and Kellogg’s cereal.

No doubt, Novak’s past experiences writing for the Harvard Lampoon and his time at The Office as part of the cast and as writer, director, and executive producer helped shape his path to penning his first novel. He brings a confidence and sophistication to the book that comes from an experienced writer, regardless of the medium.

As a compilation of a little more than 60 short stories varying in length from less than a page to 18 pages, one might be tempted to skip around and read the most interesting ones. Don’t. One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories is best read cover to cover without going straight to the end.

Certain stories intertwine and build off of each other. In “All You Have to Do,” a man wears a red shirt with a pocket every day in the hopes that someone will notice and post about him on a dating site. Several chapters later, an online poster is looking for a man she met at the grocery store. Of course, the red shirt is involved.

That being said, each story can stand alone, and One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories is an easy read that makes you laugh and appreciate his skill. There are also lessons to be learned along the way that will resonate long after the last page. Namely, that Novak’s writing talent translates off-screen with relative ease. Novak’s next book, The Book with No Pictures, is due out this year and is intended for a much younger audience. His versatility just might prove him to be one of today’s most imaginative storytellers.

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