Writing a lot of short stories last month reminded me of one thing – I need to read more short stories. I mentioned the hilarious collection of short stories by Simon Rich, called The Last Girlfriend On Earth And Other Love Stories, back in this post when I was only 40 pages in, and when I sat down to read more of it two days ago I ended up reading the entire remains of the book in one sitting. I also laughed. A lot.
Up until recently, Rich worked as a writer for Saturday Night Live (he now works for Pixar), so really you would expect him to be able to induce a few laughs with his writing. However I didn’t realise this when I read this book, and was taken quite by surprise just how funny it was. Often funny books make me smile, or sometimes laugh once or twice, but I was laughing repeatedly as I read this and I am now very curious about his other books.
The stories, about 30 in total over 200 odd pages, are divided into three sections – Boy Meets Girl, Boy Gets Girl, and Boy Loses Girl. Despite this, there is a strong cynicism about love and relationships and how people act in relationships through all three parts of the book. For example, in the Boy Gets Girl section is a short story called “Girlfriend Repair Shop”, in which a guy and girl are sitting in a relationship counselling office and it becomes clear that the guy is to blame for the issues the couple are experiencing. But then, instead of dealing with it properly, the guy takes the girl to a repair shop so she’ll stop complaining and return to the blissful person she was at the start of the relationship. While it is quite funny it also makes a good point, as a lot of people seem to be disappointed when relationships don’t retain that honeymoon feeling forever and they realise they have to work hard to keep both people happy. A lot of this social commentary lurks underneath the surface of almost every story in this book, but it by no means takes away from the humour, thankfully.
One key feature of the stories in this book is the use of surrealism – I mean, the book begins with a story about a sentient condom who ends up in a wallet and talks to the other contents of the wallet over time as he slowly tries to figure out what his purpose in life might be. There’s countless references to mythology, such as “Sirens of Gowanus” in which a man is lured by a several thousand year old Siren in modern times, “Cupid”, which features an alcoholic Cupid who isn’t doing his job of making people fall in love, and “Children of the Dirt” which explores the origins of sexual orientations. Then there’s the short but sweet stories – “Dog Missed Connections” is just a couple of pages of what appear to be ads on a Dog Dating site (and this one I absolutely howled in laughter at), “Celebrity Sexceptions” which reads almost like a long joke with a very good punchline, and “Ludlow Lounge” which is a futuristic look at relationships. There is “I Love Girl”, about love in the time of cavemen, the slightly disturbing but very clever “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, and so much more than I have time to go into here.
The writing itself is sharp and witty, but very varied in style to suit all the different scenarios. Somehow though it never feels forced at any point – you get the feeling that Rich thoroughly enjoyed writing a lot of these tales. Through the constantly changing settings and the alternating between longer and shorter stories, it’s hard to lose interest as you read this book (part of how I read it mostly in one sitting).
If you feel like reading something that will actually make you laugh, and some short stories that are clever, thought provoking and actually quite short, you should pick up this book. I promise you won’t be disappointed.