A debut collection of stories, ranging from two or three sentences to 18 or so pages, from Novak, best known for his work on The Office.
Given the sheer number of entries in this collection, it’s not surprising that Novak has both hits and misses. Among the latter are a few sketches that read like stand-up material, occasionally witty but also occasionally falling flat. Some ideas work better in conception than in execution—“Walking on Eggshells (or: When I Loved Tony Robbins),” for example, in which the narrator is blunt about wanting to have sex with the eponymous motivational speaker, or “The Ghost of Mark Twain,” in which a teacher objects to the language in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and hopes to see a new edition increasing the number of times Huck uses the “N-word.” At other times, however, Novak is spot-on and frequently hilarious. In “The World’s Biggest Ripoff,” the narrator and his family visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, Niagara Falls and the Guinness World Records Museum and find all of them wanting. The narrator then visits an “incredibly well-executed interactive holographic exhibit on the Bernie Madoff hedge fund scam of 2009” and finds the $100 entrance fee (per person) well spent. The last piece in the collection, “J. C. Audetat, Translator of Don Quixote,” is also the longest, so Novak has more space in which to develop his comic ideas. A translator becomes famous translating not only Miguel de Cervantes, but also Leo Tolstoy and Marcel Proust—and his final work is a new translation of The Great Gatsby into “modern” English.
Novak creates a spectrum of work from the mediocre to the deliciously tongue-in-cheek. If you don’t like something, just wait—a new piece is usually only a page or two away.