This book first caught my eye at a bookstore because of the starkly white cover. It also grabbed my attention because I’m familiar with the name B.J. Novak as I’m a huge fan of The Office. I knew that he played the character Ryan Howard and was also a writer for the show. I looked very quickly at the book, not feeling like buying right away, but storing it away to possibly revisit someday.
My assumption was that his stories were probably tidbits from behind the scenes of shows he worked on; perhaps musings from his time being a comedian and meeting some of the great characters of the stand-up world. I always like learning about the writers behind great shows and movies, so I figured I’d probably enjoy reading anecdotes from Novak’s life. I later bought it on Amazon, to the dismay of determined brick-and-mortar bookstore advocates everywhere. I hadn’t really read reviews or anything about the book; I just bought it. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized a few pages in that it was actually just a book of his fictional short stories and quasi-philosophical parables.
One of the best things about this book is that I really got the feel that the publisher and editor just kind of relinquished control to Novak. His stories range from hilarious to dark and vary in size from a few paragraphs to fully fleshed-out short stories. The topics have no consistent theme and there doesn’t seem to be any kind of purpose to the order in which they’re presented. The beauty in this is that you can really take each piece on its own without distraction. I love short stories for that reason. I enjoy being able to digest a story in a quick sitting without having to pick up where I left off when I return. It seems clear that Novak had a powerful influence on the production of this book, and I think it was a smart choice to rely on his instinct.
I really think his writing is clever without being pretentious, and I was surprised to find that he has one of the more unique voices of any current writers I’ve read in years. I could probably discuss almost all of the stories at length, but don’t feel the need to do it in blog form. If you happen to read One More Time: Stories and Other Stories, I promise I’ll babble about whichever one(s) you find most interesting.
My favorite stories include:
- No One Goes to Heaven to See Dan Fogelberg
- Kellogg’s (or: The Last Wholesome Fantasy of the Middle School Boy)
- C. Audetat, Translator of Don Quixote