Friday, July 19, 2013

Books in 2013: #15 The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich

A few months ago one of my favourite writers (who I think is one of the funniest writers on the planet) emailed me and said OMG, you must read this book called The Last Girlfriend on Earth. At this point he'd only read a single story from it, but he swore it was the funniest short story he'd ever read. I flipped over to Goodreads to check it out, and people were raving about how hilarious it was. I was sold. I LOVE FUNNY. I checked the library, no copies (oh, dear library, you almost never let me down so I'll forgive you this one!), so I just ordered it online and had it in two days. And then I read it over the next couple of days.

And wow, he was right. The opening story is a tale that is so funny I had to keep putting the book down, I was laughing so hard. It's the story of a guy's really sad love life... told from the point of view of the condom that's lived in his wallet for more years than the young man would like anyone to know. The next is a parody of the Narnia stories, where a half-man/half-goat creature meets a little English girl and whisks her away to a magical world filled with wonder and adventure... and then when he moves in for a kiss, she backs away, holds her hands up and wants to know what the bloody hell you think you are doing, mister! "Oh... I... thought it was going in that direction?" he stammers back. Amazing.

What I loved about Simon Rich's collection is that the stories are all quirky, many of them are parodies of stories, or completely off-the-wall surrealist stuff about Hitler or fictional characters dating and being turned down. But that's also the drawback. After a while, the stories start to feel the same. Oh look, he's going to take a clever character and pop him into a sad love story and something hilariously awful will happen and that's the end.

What these stories suffer from is being in a collection together. The condom was the funniest story in the book, followed by the Narnia story. But if I'd started with Hitler, would that have been the funniest one because it was the first? What about the one about the guy dating the last girl on earth, and how much it sucks that EVERY OTHER GUY ON EARTH wants to be with her? A great story, but coming after so many other sad-sack romances, it felt a little samey.

I really enjoyed this book a lot, but I wish I'd read a story, waited a week, read another story, waited a week, etc. I highly recommend this book to anyone, but I believe it needs to be read in small doses, not drunk all at once. If taken slowly, each story will feel new, fresh, and exciting, which is what I believe Simon Rich's writing really is. I'm looking forward to reading more of his work.

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