I finished reading this book a few weeks ago and I’m marveling at the fact that even though it’s been a while, my thoughts on this wonderful collection of short stories are still so fresh. To me, that’s an indication of quality.
I’m going to be honest here – I’m not a huge fan of The Office (*gasp*). I don’t know what it is about it. Maybe it’s because Michael Scott makes me really mad and annoyed a lot of the time. Maybe it’s because I find Jim and Pam unbearable to watch. I don’t know. But because of this, and because I really don’t know anything about B.J. Novak besides the fact that he plays a character on the show, I wasn’t sure I’d like One More Thing. …Are you still reading? Phew.
Anyway, I am SO glad that my curiosity won and persuaded me to pick up the book. I’m having a hard time writing this review because I loved it so much. The book had me at “The Rematch,” which is saying a lot since it’s the very first story, and held my attention all the way through to “Discussion Questions.” One of the things I liked most about One More Thing is Novak’s ability to turn the familiar into something completely new. Take, for example, “The Rematch”. The story is a retelling of the classic “Tortoise and the Hare” story, told from the hare’s perspective a few years after the fabled race. What happens when the tortoise and the hare have a rematch? Why doesn’t anyone talk about this race? The story is engaging and hilarious and that’s just the beginning.
Comedy isn’t the only thing that Novak can write. One More Thing is paced really well in that there is a good mix of story lengths and subjects, ranging from hilarious to morbid. What Novak does really well in this collection is tell meaningful and entertaining stories without being overly didactic. His stories never explicitly tell you how you’re supposed to feel and they never force an opinion. I know from experience how hard it is to write this way and for that I commend him. At first I wanted to compare his writing to David Foster Wallace – and I still want to, in some ways – but as I read on I realized that Novak has a voice of his own. Yes, elements of his writing can be compared to Woody Allen, David Sedaris, David Foster Wallace, but these stories are truly original works. I highly recommend reading them.
Instead of my usual “Verdit/Read If” ending, I thought I would change it up and highlight some of my favourite stories:
The one that hooked me and made me root for something I never thought I would: “The Rematch”
The one that absolutely shocked me: “Closure”
The one that made me chuckle: “The Something by John Grisham”
The one that took a familiar thing and made it new again: “The Man Who Invented the Calendar”
The one that gave me the most satisfaction by the end: “J.C. Audetat, Translator of Don Quixote”
The one that made me feel most sympathetic to a character: “Constructive Criticism”
The one that made me rethink the phrase “one more thing”: “Sophia”
The one that ended the collection perfectly: “Discussion Questions”
Have you read One More Thing? Which stories were your favourites?