Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Review: "The Last Girlfriend on Earth: And Other Love Stories" by Simon Rich

This might possibly be one of the funniest story collections I've ever read. I can't count the number of times I laughed out loud while reading, something that doesn't happen that often for me.

The 30 stories in Simon Rich's uniquely creative, sometimes zany, sometimes heartfelt collection are all about relationships—finding them, trying to maintain them, and losing or ending them. And not every relationship is traditional—one story recounts Zeus' frustrations with an alcoholic, hiphop-loving Cupid, while another (one of the funniest in the collection) is narrated by a condom as he makes his journey from the drugstore into someone's wallet. Don't be dismayed by the fact that there are 30 stories—most are quite short; in fact, some only last a page or two.

Some of my favorite stories in the collection are: Unprotected, the already-mentioned story narrated by the condom; Occupy Jen's Street, in which an Occupy Wall Street protest is somehow transformed into one trying to get a girl to date one of the protestors; Scared Straight, in which a group of teenagers trying to pursue long-term relationships are dissuaded by those stuck in the reality of those commitments; The Last Girlfriend on Earth, narrated by a man who has the last girlfriend on Earth; Invisible Man, in which a CIA agent using invisibility drugs to hunt down a terrorist gets distracted by spying on his ex-girlfriend; and Present, the story of a scientist who can never quite do right by his girlfriend.

I found myself constantly marveling at some of the ideas Rich came up with, and the characters in his stories don't always seem to follow typical behaviors—a man's friends try to set him up with a female troll, characters have no problem dating Mother Teresa or Adolf Hitler. Some stories aren't quite stories—there are a few personal ads, a report about the excavation of a bar by archaeologists, even Jeopardy! questions/answers.

As I mentioned earlier, some of the stories are quite short. And while Rich generally has a perfect grasp on how long his stories should run, a few ended so abruptly I can't help but wonder whether part of those stories got lost in the translation from print to e-book. But beyond that, Rich's voice is so creative, fresh, and fun, this was a tremendously fast read for me and an investment I'm glad I made.

The funny thing is, I would never have heard of this collection if it weren't for a recommendation from Amazon. And now that I've read it, if Rich's other books are this funny, I'm going to have to read them all.

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