Woody Allen. George Saunders. B.J. Novak?
That’s the vibe the ex-Office multihyphenate is going for in his first short story collection, One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories — the cover of which you’ll see for the first time above. “It’s a really great form — fiction with a sense of humor,” Novak tells EW. “It’s what I love to read, and it’s what I wanted to write.”
The book contains 60 stories, some short… and some shorter. “I didn’t want to write in the traditional mold where you’d be constrained by anything,” Novak explains, noting that a few of his pieces are mere lines long –à la his pal Simon Rich, another writer Novak admires. “They’re all based around some idea played out to its limit, and no further,” he continues. “I think a lot of fiction tries to stretch — I was happy to go in new directions, but not if the story didn’t call for it.”
Novak has been testing some of those new directions in a series of live literary readings, an integral facet of his editing process. As he puts it, “A live audience really keeps you humble, and makes you desperate to entertain and keep their attention. I really wanted to be honest with myself; I didn’t want to be pretentious. I wanted to make sure these stories were captivating people.”
He’ll be testing those waters once again at New York Comic Con Friday. There, Novak will read some of his new material and sit for a conversation with Time Magazine’s Lev Grossman before signing a sampler of stories produced exclusively for the event. (The panel is at 1:30 p.m.; the signing begins at 3 p.m.) The sampler will include tales like “The Impatient Billionaire and the Mirror for Earth,” a piece about a wealthy but unfulfilled man that neatly summarizes the collection’s main motif: “Many or most of the stories are about someone who is doing fine, but becomes obsessed with the one thing that will make them complete,” Novak says. “And that was sort of an inadvertent theme I stumbled on as I wrote the book.”
One More Thing hits shelves Feb. 4.