When actor B.J. Novak released his debut short story collection One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories earlier this month, many people were surprised that Novak wasn’t debuting a memoir like many of his comedy counterparts. I hate to admit this, because I do love Novak’s acting career and the very few episodes he wrote on The Office, but I was one of those people.
It wasn’t that I believed Novak was incapable of writing fiction. He’s more than proved that with his screenwriting. It’s just more predictable for a Hollywood figure, especially a comedic television actor, to go the memoir route. Look at Tina Fey, Nick Offerman, and Mindy Kaling. All three wrote excellent works, but what they all had in common was they focused on their lives and careers before they were famous.
But Novak didn’t do that with his first work and I’m glad he didn’t. He proved to everyone that he’s not just capable of “laugh-out-loud” comedy but dark humor. The stories in this work are so imaginative, that to this day, I’m still in bewilderment over what inspired him to create some of these pieces. Specifically, the stories “The Rematch,” “The Ambulance Driver,” “The Man Who Invented the Calendar,” and “Chris Hansen at the Justin Bieber Concert” really captivated me. These were all so original, out of the box, and (of course) humorous, that at times I had to take a step back and admire how well they were crafted.
Though I enjoyed this collection, there were a few stories that fell flat. Some of these stories I would call “average” but there were two in particular that really didn’t do it for me. The first is the last story in the collection, “J.C. Audetat, Translation of Don Quixote.” This story was just dreadful. I feel like Novak could have come up with something better to end the collection with.
And then there’s “Sophia,” my biggest problem child. I actually liked this story a lot at first and then the second time I read it I thought to myself, “Wait why does this sound familiar?” After some further thinking and some researching I realized that Kurt Vonnegut wrote a very similar story titled “Jenny” in his first short story collection While Mortals Sleep. I understand Vonnegut may be a influence for Novak, but the two stories were so identical that I felt a little cheated.
Despite the few duds, I overall enjoyed One More Thing: Stores and Other Stories. I thought it was really innovative and engaging, and left me wanting more. From what I heard, Novak will be debuting a children’s book later this year, but I hope he also considers doing more adult fiction. I would love to see a full length fiction novel with one cohesive story and fully developed characters come from him.