I quite liked Saving Mr. Banks (review here), and one of my favorite parts of it was B. J. Novak's portrayal of Robert Sherman as an increasingly annoyed songwriter. He got my second favorite line from the whole movie: "Does. It. Matter." Loved that part. And overall I got the sense, from the two times I watched that movie, that he was a very thoughtful, intelligent actor. So when I learned that Novak wrote a book of short stories, I wanted to read it. And when I learned that he is a Harvard graduate with a degree in English and Spanish Literature, I really wanted to read it. So I did.
Did I love this collection? No. Did I heartily enjoy several of the stories? Yes. In fact, I read one of them aloud to Cowboy and my mom because I knew it would amuse them as much as it did me. It's first on this list of which stories I liked best:
"'Everyone Was Singing the Same Song': The Duke of Earl Recalls His Trip to America in June of 1962" -- funny and sweet, a bit rambly, but with a smile-inducing ending. Also, I now have the song "The Duke of Earl" stuck in my head. Thanks, B. J.
"Quantum Nonlocality and the Death of Elvis Presley" -- I have accepted this as my head-canon of what happened to Elvis because I've always been really sad over how he died, even when I was a little girl. Thanks, B. J. I'm not being sarcastic this time.
"Never Fall in Love" -- adorable.
"They Kept Driving Faster and Outran the Rain" -- cheerful.
"The Literalist's Love Poem" -- teensy and hilarious.
"Great Writers Steal" -- silly and predictable, but fun.
I also liked how "The Ambulance Driver" and "The Girl Who Gave Great Advice" meshed together.
Alas, there is a LOT of bad language in this book, though not in those eight stories. A few others were also very clean, but many of them had a variety of curse words. It also involves some sex, though nothing graphic. For that reason, I really can't universally recommend this. But if you'd like to try a grab-bag mix of sometimes off-beat, often humorous, and always thought-provoking short stories and don't mind the language and some sexual references, then by all means, give it a try!
Particularly Good Bits:
He kissed her for an eternity, which was fine, because heaven had eternities to burn. Then he kissed her for another. (From "No One Goes to Heaven to See Dan Fogelberg")
Sad that he could never live in the Paris he remembered once dreaming of in his youth, he let his mind wander off across life and literature until it settled almost independently on the gnawing notion that perhaps the most true and timeless version of Paris, for everyone, might be a version of this one -- the Paris filtered through remembered dreams. (From "J. C. Audetat, Translator of Don Quixote)
If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It: R for language and some sexual references.