You’ve probably seen One More Thing: Stories and More Stories online or at the bookstore, and maybe thought to yourself, “Oh yeah, the short stories by the guy who plays the intern on The Office. How good can they really be?” I can answer that question: they are very good.
One More Thing is BJ Novak’s first collection of stories, many of which had their roots in his standup comedy routine. They cover a really, really wide swath of topics and settings, but they share one thing in common: they are funny, insightful and original. I was impressed throughout the collection by Novak’s ability to shift from the frivolous to the profound even within a single page. Some of the stories are as short as a few lines, while others stretch to 15 pages or so. And while not every one was brilliant, enough were.
My favorite stories were:
- The Rematch, which imagines who would win if the tortoise and the hare had a rematch, and the hare actually tried this time
- No One Goes to Heaven to see Dan Fogelberg, a view of the afterlife where everyone meets up with the people who predeceased them and goes to free nightly concerts with the greatest musicians in history
- Missed Connection: Grocery spill at 21st and 6th 2:30 PM on Wednesday, in which an entire relationship plays out in a single “Missed Connections” post
- Walking on the Moon, in which the glory of having walked on the moon is dismissed by someone who clearly never did it
- The Man Who Invented the Calendar, a diary written by the person who created the calendar
- MONSTER: The Roller Coaster, in which a focus group evaluates a roller coaster designed by artist Christo and meant to mimic life itself
- One Of These Days, We Have to Do Something About Willie, in which a group of friends from college tries unsuccessfully to stage an intervention after one of them appears to be partying too much
- Bingo, in which four cousins play Bingo on a family vacation
It’s no surprise that Novak writes for TV. He has an unfailing ear for dialogue and the way people really talk to each other. There wasn’t a single spoken line in this collection that didn’t ring true for me. I laughed out loud many times, and the stories made me think. They were sometimes absurd, sometimes comical, and always meaningful. There were a few that dragged for me, but only a few.
I got a review copy of the audio version of One More Thing, and it’s a treat. Almost all of the stories are narrated by Novak, with some help from Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Mindy Kaling, Julianne Moore, and others. The audio is great – you can hear Novak inhabiting his stories and characters, which I’m sure he perfected over many standup performances. The only drawback to the audio is that you don’t know how long a story is going to be, which I think is kind of helpful when you’re reading short stories.
If you’ve been avoiding One More Thing because you think, “enough already from that Harvard guy on The Office“, I urge you to give it a try. It’s entertaining and touching, and I promise that at least a few of Novak’s stories will have a lasting impact on you.
Depressing-o-Meter: 5 out of 10. (Mostly funny but lots of poignant moments too.)