NOVEL APPROACH: Laughing with friends

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First Posted: 2/24/2014

If you have ever known the greatness that is the American adaptation of “The Office,” you remember character Ryan Howard, played by B. J. Novak, as smart, blunt and, above all, stoically steamy. But off-screen, actor and screenwriter Novak has transitioned from television to literature with his debut collection of short stories, “One More Thing.”

Since the season finale of “The Office” in 2013, and after nearly nine years of screenwriting, acting, and awards, Novak has proved his genius in comedy surpasses television. The collection, which includes more than 60 short stories with the flashiest of flash fiction, demonstrates a great depth of humor, detail, and energy.

Point of view fluctuates throughout the work; likewise style and tone. While most of the collection moves from tongue-in-cheek to pee-yourself hilarity (“No One Goes to Heaven to See Dan Fogelberg” and “The Man Who Told Us About Inflatable Women”), there are also more delicate pieces – in particular, a favorite story entitled “Missed Connection: Grocery Spill at 21st and 6th 2:30 pm on Wednesday.” The piece, which one might mistake for an actual missed connection, leaves the reader nearly breathless. Not only because it is sentimental, but also because the narrator presents a stream of consciousness play-by-play of his missed connection. A connection is made, albeit one readers might not expect, to another story only pages earlier.

All of the stories are generally short, but Novak also includes flash fiction pieces such as “Romance, Chapter One,” “There Is a Fine Line Between Why and Why Not,” and “Never Fall In Love,” which do not exceed a page. My favorite of the short-shorts is the punchy piece “The Walk to School on the Day After Labor Day.” In less than 20 words, the piece is a testament to simplicity at its finest: “I was sad that summer was over. But I was happy that it was over for my enemies, too.”

In many ways, reading “One More Thing” is like laughing at stories with friends. Having had similar conversations and experiences as those in this book, the collection grows from humorous to endearing and emotional. Moreover, there is something poignant and perfect about the concluding acknowledgment that follows the collection.

Novak notes, “I would stay up late on school nights to write things to try to make you laugh the next day in class, and you inspired the one piece of advice on writing that I’ve ever felt qualified to give: write for the kid sitting next to you.”

‘One More Thing’ by B.J. Novak Rating: W W W W W