This was quite possibly the strangest and quirkiest book I’ve read in ages. The majority of it comes from the randomness of the collection of short stories, but a lot of it comes from Novak’s rather odd, but incredibly witty imagination. My friend Caitrin lent me this ages ago and I finally got around to reading it.
The first I heard about it was on the podcast Dinner Party Download where Novak read a few of his short stories and then he was in Boston for a reading and book signing and Caitrin and a few friends went. I didn’t go as I’m super selective over what books I want signed, my bookshelf space is severely limited, but I would definitely go to hear him speak now, having read the book! Doesn’t hurt he’s a local boy from Newton and went to Harvard so even more reason to pay attention (never really followed The Office so wasn’t familiar with him at all).
No stories stood out enough to be named individually and I feel like the majority of them will fade away over time or I’ll think of them as anecdotes a friend told me. I did think Wikipedia Brown was great, but that was more from his reading on DPD and I would definitely recommend a listen.
I definitely loved how there were two or three sets of stories that intertwined and additional stories that could have also connected to those but it wasn’t clear. It was almost as if he’d started a novel decided not to and took the parts he liked and crafted them into stories. Only a few lines really stood out for me throughout the collection,
“You meet a finite number of people in your life. It feels to you like it’s infinite, but it’s not. I think it’s the biggest thing I can see you can’t. Because you’re brain doesn’t work the way mine works, with all these calculations and everything. You think you meet an infinite number of taxi drivers, but you don’t, it’s probably not even a thousand, in your whole life. Or doctors or nurses—do you get what I’m trying to say? At all?” (Sophia, 84)
Which shows his astute observation skills. The thoughts behind this aren’t the most original, but the way Novak wrote it and the story it’s within is great. It was an odd story about artificial intelligence and I’m still not sure about how I felt about it.
And I LOVED this quote for the imagery, I think that’s the word, in it. The description makes you see his aura and the description is so simple yet eloquent.
“He seemed to be blazing outside the lines of his own body, as if he were drawn in crayon by an excited five-year-old; whatever fuel source was powering him couldn’t possibly be sustainable, and its excess poured easily of him in the form of expansive declarations about how awesome the party was, an enthusiasm that somehow circled back in order to power, or even overpower, the party that was powering him…” (One of These Days, We Have to Do Something About Willie 178)
Overall, I’m glad Caitrin suggested it. As I always say, I never read enough short stories! I’ve got another collection coming up shortly, Margaret Atwood’s soon to be released Stone Mattress.
Recommendation: It’s a great read and super quick! Some of the stories are only three lines long (more like poems) and the longest is at most 30 pages. If you want something light and incredibly diverse I would definitely recommend this one.