One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B. J. Novak (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014. 288 pp)

B.J. Novak is a writer and actor widely known for his work on the acclaimed comedy series, The Office, as an actor, writer, and executive producer. He is also known for his performances as a standup comedian and for his roles in films such as Inglorious Basterds and Saving Mr. Banks. His writing has been published in The New Yorker, Zoetrope, and other publications. One More Thing is his first book.

Funny Things

B.J. Novak is a comic. He does funny things. One hilarious aspect about One More Thing is that B.J. Novak provided questions at the end of his book. I shall use them to frame my review. And away. We. Go.

Did you think the book was funny? Why or why not?

I did. Novak offers an oddball, slightly macabre type of humor to One More Thing.  Each story imagines the truly outrageous, bringing the narrative to earth, bouncing it around the walls of realism before launching it back into the absurd.

Consider this example:

“’And that’s the puzzling thing about dark matter,’ said the scientist at the end of our planetarium tour. ‘It makes up over ninety percent of the universe, and yet nobody knows what it is!’
People on the tour chuckled politely, like Wow, isn’t that a fun fact?
But I looked closer at the scientist, and I could tell something from the smirky little smile on his fat smug face:
This motherfucker knew exactly what dark matter was” (8).

If you wanted to see what I meant about the macabre side, consider the story where Novak imagines a blind date between a thirty-something woman and a warlord:

“The people that are in charge are the warlords. They—we—bribe, kidnap, indoctrinate, torture, and … what am I forgetting? What’s the fifth one? Oh, kill—ha, that’s weird that I forgot that one—the population of any region that falls above a certain threshold of natural resources but below a certain threshold of government protection. It’s not exactly that simple, Julie, but, basically, that determines where I’m based” (30).

Did you flip through the book and read the shortest stories first? The author does that, too.

No.

What is quantum nonlocality? Be concise.

Uhh. The phenomenon by which the measurements made at a microscopic level necessarily refute one or more notions that are regarded as intuitively true in classical mechanics? Hopefully Wikipedia is correct.

Do you think discussion questions can be unfairly leading sometimes? Why? Who are we supposed to be discussing these questions with?

Discussion questions aren’t inherently leading in an unfair way. It depends on the question and the context upon which the question was posed. This question, for example, doesn’t provide enough detail to say whether or not it is leading. I would say it’s not leading because these questions aren’t really going anywhere.

As to whom we are supposed to discuss these questions. I am choosing to post this on the Internet, so basically anyone in the world crazy enough to stumble upon this post?

Do you normally have discussions in response to a question that was posed by a person not participating in the discussion? Why or why not?

Depends upon the question. If a rhetorical question tickles my fancy, I’ll turn to it in just about any conversation with any semblance of depth. Sadly, this question is not one of them. How about that for a “yes”-and-“no” answer?

Do you think “why not?” is ultimately a better question than “why?”

No. I studied philosophy because I’ve always been enamored with “why?” “Why not?” to me, feels like a challenge. It’s as if you’ve asked a question I have no intention of executing and now you are judgmentally arguing with me about why I would stupidly refuse to do what you say. I don’t want to and that’s final.

“Why?” on the other hand, attempts to unpeel the depths of knowledge. It’s why a child can keep asking it no matter how much information a parent provides in response. And that’s why “why?” is ultimately a better question.

Why or why not?

See above.

Verdict: 3.5 out of 5

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