While not pushing to the limits to which Bob-Waksberg is demonstrably capable, a savage sendup of love in all its dubious...

SOMEONE WHO WILL LOVE YOU IN ALL YOUR DAMAGED GLORY

Eighteen sometimes-whimsical, sometimes-biting short fictions from the creator of Netflix’s Bojack Horseman.

This offbeat collection of bad romances will be a treat for fans of Bob-Waksberg’s animated cult comedy but also fits squarely into the type of wry humor practiced by peers like Amy Sedaris and Simon Rich. It opens with a disastrous date in “Salted Circus Cashews, Swear to God,” which uses both typography and tension to land its unresolved ending. There’s a dash of Welcome to Night Vale in a longer selection, “A Most Blessed and Auspicious Occasion,” in which the happy couple getting married must wrestle with how many goats to sacrifice. Elsewhere, we find an uncomfortable reunion in “These Are Facts,” a collection of mundane superheroes in “up-and-comers,” and a scathing satire of professional theater in “You Want to Know What Plays Are Like?” While the author’s longer prose is deft, his humor lands more squarely in pieces that might seem gimmicky—lists, riffs, and bitterly funny imagined scenarios. These include "short stories," which is made up of a list of premises such as “ 'You’re not like other girls,’ he said to every girl”; “Missed Connection—m4w,” in which “timeless romance” takes on a very different meaning; the deeply uncomfortable “Lies We Told Each Other (A Partial List),” which ends with “I love you too”; "Lunch with the Person Who Dumped You," a lurid choose-your-own-adventure scenario; and "Rules for Taboo," a deeply weird set of rules for a game of that name. Bob-Waksberg caps his collection with a theme park of dead presidents in “More of You That You Already Are,” strongly reminiscent of David Sedaris’ “Santaland Diaries,” and a chaser in “We Will Be Close on Friday 18 July,” which pushes existential angst into a simple grammar error.

While not pushing to the limits to which Bob-Waksberg is demonstrably capable, a savage sendup of love in all its dubious glory.

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3201-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 45

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

more