GMG - Las Vegas Weekly

March 6, 2014

Las Vegas Weekly

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48 LASVEGASWEEKLY.COM MARCH 612, 2014 A& E | PRINT Early in B.J. Novak's debut col- lection of stories, One More Thing, a dead man tries to meet with his long-dead grandmother in heaven, only to fi nd that she's too busy giv- ing Frank Sinatra blow jobs. "You have infi nite time here, and there are infi nite things to do, but you still don't end up doing much of it," Nana says once she's extricated Frank from her mouth. "You do what you love most, over and over." It's a moment of simple grace in a funny short story ("No One Goes to Heaven to See Dan Fogelberg") that could stand for what is best and worst about Novak's debut: He does a few things quite well—an absurd situation that fl ips on irony or horrifi c epiphany—and then he tends to repeat himself. Novak, best known for starring in and writing for The Offi ce, is a sly social satirist with a keen dark side, not unlike the early stories Woody Allen wrote for The New Yorker, which bit with wit and vulnerability. When Novak hits his mark, like in the Craigslist-inspired "Missed Connection: Grocery spill at 21st and 6th 2:30pm on Wednesday," he is able to show the desperation of 21st century interaction ("I know this sounds crazy to say after one encounter but I kind of fell for you pretty hard & it has been forever since I've connected with anyone like this & my heart is kind of broken in a mil- lion pieces"), while simultaneously mocking the very enterprise of con- nection we've created. With 64 stories to choose from, however, One More Thing ends up too long by half, revealing Novak's tic for jumping toward a punch line versus expanding around one. Often the case is that the title of the story is the story, like "The Vague Restaurant Critic," a one- page piece that concludes with, "He didn't care. He knew what he did. But he kind of did care. He wished other people knew what he did, too." A simple joke, a funny one, but there are larger spaces Novak could have fi lled here, like he does in the book's longest story, "Kellogg's (or: The Last Wholesome Fantasy of the Middle-School Boy)," which hilari- ously and tragically details what happens when a young boy wins a box-top prize of $100,000. Still, One More Thing is a fi ne debut, one that would have seen publication with or without a famous name attached to it, and Novak seems primed to be that rare thing: an actor who is truly an art- ist, one who understands both the craft of writing and the huge challenge of landing the perfect joke. aaabc ONE MORE THING: STORIE S AND OTHER STORIE S By B.J. Novak, $25. > INTO THE INFINITE B.J. Novak covers missed connections and blowjobs in heaven in One More Thing. C O M I C WHEN MASCOTS ATTACK Down. Set. Fight! sets up a strange new sports world B O O K OUT OF OFFICE B.J. Novak's short story collection makes for an impressive publishing debut BY TOD GOLDBERG What secrets hide beneath the oversized, fake fur and foam heads of professional sports mascots? Would you believe a cross-sports conspiracy, an underground gambling ring involving high-stakes athlete- versus-mascot ights? No? Then allow writers Chris Sims and Chad Bowers and artist Scott Kowalchuk to convince you with their new graphic novel, Down. Set. Fight! ¶ When Chuck Fairlane's pro football career is cut short after he punches out the opposing team's mas- cot, sparking the biggest brawl in pro sports history, he begins a new life as a high school football coach. All's well until he's suddenly targeted by vengeful mascots and an FBI investigation, and he's forced to solve the mystery of this new and weird form of sports gambling. Before it's over, Fairlane has to ight every single mascot in professional sports in the most spectacu- lar—and violent—halftime show ever. ¶ Kowalchuk's straight but stylized, rather realistic art heightens the tension of Sims and Bowers' silly premise, sell- ing it with an all-in sincerity. You may never look at a mascot the same way again. –J. Caleb Mozzocco aaabc DOWN. S ET. FIGHT! By Chris Sims, Chad Bowers and Scott Kowalchuk, Oni Press, $20 48_Print_20140306_CB_ML.indd 48 3/5/14 4:01 PM

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