Book Review: The Last Girlfriend On Earth

The Last Girlfriend On EarthWriting 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.

Return to Copenhagen Part 2 – Botanical Gardens and a few funny photos

After walking our way around The King’s Gardens and Rosenborg Castle (see Part 1 here for more information and photos on that part of the day), we finally came across the Botanical Gardens which had been recommended to us by one of the workers where we ate lunch. These gardens were enormous and beautiful, and the dozen or so photos here are from over a hundred photos that I took of the place.

So, without further ado, here we go:

This map perhaps best shows the size of the gardens. You need a couple of hours to see them fully.

This map perhaps best shows the size of the gardens. You need a couple of hours to see them fully.

We weren't allowed inside some parts of the Palm House. No idea why they call it that...

We weren’t allowed inside some parts of the Palm House. No idea why they call it that…

Part of the Palm House we were allowed into. It was like a sauna in here, with steam regularly being shot into the air to keep it hot and humid so the plants and fish can thrive. It felt like I was back in Australia, if only briefly.

Part of the Palm House we were allowed into. It was like a sauna in here, with steam regularly being shot into the air to keep it hot and humid so the plants and fish can thrive. It felt like I was back in Australia, if only briefly.

This is just a cool looking plant - I love how bright it is. If anybody knows what it is feel free to tell me in the comments.

This is just a cool looking plant – I love how bright it is. If anybody knows what it is feel free to tell me in the comments.

Another part we couldn't get into, it looked a little like a lost civilisation that nature had grown over.

Another part we couldn’t get into, it looked a little like a lost civilisation that nature had grown over.

A lot of the floral displays in the gardens were very colourful and beautiful, more so on this bright Spring day.

A lot of the floral displays in the gardens were very colourful and beautiful, more so on this bright Spring day.

It looks like the flowers here are glowing, almost. Best accidental photo in a while.

It looks like the flowers here are glowing, almost. Best accidental photo in a while.

Looking over the gardens from a small hill toward the outside of the enormous Palm House.

Looking over the gardens from a small hill toward the outside of the enormous Palm House.

More colourful flowers.

More colourful flowers.

A little waterfall/river/creek thing we almost missed, but luckily its sound alerted us to its presence. A nice little feature in the gardens.

A little waterfall/river/creek thing we almost missed, but luckily its sound alerted us to its presence. A nice little feature in the gardens.

I think I should turn this into a caption contest. No idea what is actually going on here but I struggle to think of anything that isn't hilarious.

I think I should turn this into a caption contest. No idea what is actually going on here but I struggle to think of anything that isn’t hilarious.

I took a picture of this tree mostly because it reminded me of Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons. You know I'm right.

I took a picture of this tree mostly because it reminded me of Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons. You know I’m right.

This place is called "England", in French, in Denmark. You have to love Europe.

This place is called “England”, in French, in Denmark. You have to love Europe.

As we left for the train out of Copenhagen we walked past this Australian pub, the Southern Cross Pub. In true Aussie fashion two drunkards came out offering us drinks and telling us they loved us.

As we left for the train out of Copenhagen we walked past this Australian pub, the Southern Cross Pub. In true Aussie fashion two drunkards came out offering us drinks and telling us they loved us.

This kangaroo on the pub is drinking Fosters Beer. Can I just point out now, on behalf of Australia (I did spend most of my life there), that Fosters is crap and no Australian ever drinks it, ever. Sadly, it's the beer Australia exports to the world so it's what people imagine Aussie beer to be like. I promise you, real Aussie beer is much better than this.

This kangaroo on the pub is drinking Fosters Beer. Can I just point out now, on behalf of Australia (I did spend most of my life there), that Fosters is crap and no Australian ever drinks it, ever. Sadly, it’s the beer Australia exports to the world so it’s what people imagine Aussie beer to be like. I promise you, real Aussie beer is much better than this.

Back in Helsingborg, Sweden, waiting for our last train back home, we found this pub called Pitchers just near the station. It was nice and cosy, the shelves were lined with books, and it had an interesting age policy - nobody under 23 was allowed in. I suspect they push this rule more on weekends, but the old man inside of me kind of likes it. If I ever opened a pub it would look something like this.

Back in Helsingborg, Sweden, waiting for our last train back home, we found this pub called Pitchers just near the station. It was nice and cosy, the shelves were lined with books, and it had an interesting age policy – nobody under 23 was allowed in. I suspect they push this rule more on weekends, but the old man inside of me kind of likes it. If I ever opened a pub it would look something like this.

And that about wraps up our day in Copenhagen, my second visit to the wonderful capital city of Denmark. I will definitely return there – I have a lot more of the place left to explore and it is also my closest capital city (Stockholm, Sweden’s capital, is about three times as far away from here).

If you have any experiences in Copenhagen or Denmark you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!