Sunday, September 27, 2015

Bow Knows Prose

Top: Merona, Target
Skirt: Modcloth
Shoes: Payless
Bag: Target
Belt: Wet Seal
Sunglasses: The Tote Trove

Dress: Kohl's
Scarf (halter tie): Wet Seal
Shoes: a.n.a, J. C. Penney's
Bag: Candie's, Kohl's
Sunglasses: Michaels

Dress: J. C. Penney's
Jacket: Material Girl, Macy's
Shoes: Chinese Laundry, DSW
Bag: Nordstrom
Belt: Wet Seal
Sunglasses: The Tote Trove

There's no good reason to reference a 1980s pop icon and super athlete in the title of this post.  Just like there's no good reason to feature cherries when they've been replaced by apples, or to post beach pics when the wind is howling cartoon-style outside my window.  Except that it's catchy and quirky and neatly ties up the otherwise disparate elements of bow barrettes and celebrity fiction at work here this week.  

When I first heard about B.J. Novak's One More Thing, I, like most other people with a TV, thought, oh, Ryan from "The Office" wrote a book.  The fact that it was not a biography but a collection of short stories was intriguing.  And also kind of fitting.  After all, Novak not only starred in but wrote for "The Office."  Also, there was that episode in which a fedora-sporting Ryan wrote and recited some pretentious poetry.  Not that B.J. is Ryan, or that B. J. is pretentious.  Still, there are parallels.  But we'll get there.

The stark, spare style of the book's cover proclaims that it means business (unlike the cover of fellow "Office" writing alum Mindy Kaling's book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns, which was, by Mindy's own admission, "mostly pink"*), setting the stage for the unabashedly literary satire that smirks within.  Most of the selections are vignettes about life with a zingy punchline, some in flash fiction format at a single sentence.  Novak explores the kind of paradoxically casual yet take-on-the-world reflections that have been espoused by angry young men since the first four-letter word was etched on a cave wall.  Reading his book is like eating a bag of Sour Patch Kids -- tangy at first, but once you get passed the outside, kind of sweet.  With wry wit and a hint of cynicism, Novak delves into the usual hot-button issues of the economy, education, social networking, romance, and what happens when we die, adding his own funky twist.  Some protagonists are faceless everymen, whereas others are celebrities we know and love (or, in some cases, at least love to hate).  Because Novak isn't afraid to "go there," a trait he exploited to dramatic proportions as his Dunder Mifflin alter ego.  (I like to think that his writerly voice is one that both mocks and appreciates someone like Ryan, the latter albeit ironically.)  He makes you laugh and he makes you think, and his oddball stories are all over the map.  Some are punctuated with English class-style discussion questions, such as "Do you think Johnny Depp should have driven his motorcycle off the mountain highway to his death?  Why or why not?" (169); indeed, there are eight discussion questions, lighthearted yet probing, at the end of the book.  Still, there's a unifying thread woven amid the crazy, and that's (not to get all Declaration of Independence on you) the importance of freedom.  Many of the stories, however circuitously and irreverently, highlight the struggle of retaining one's own autonomy in an oh-so-often homogenizing world.

On that note, I'll leave you with this.  What would Neil Patrick Harris, John Grisham, and Justin Bieber have to say about their starring roles in these stories?  Extra credit: What do you think Michelle Pfeiffer thinks of Vance Joy's shout-out to her in his song "Riptide" and of Bruno Mars's same in "Uptown Funk", and are the two at all related?


*If you are not a regular reader and therefore unaccustomed to my Mindy references, then please see the above link to confirm that I say this not with criticism but with love.  As much as it pains me to point out my own attempt at humor, I'd rather be accused of subpar literary prowess than of being, to put it plainly, a meanie. 

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