*Starred Review* Novak’s high-concept, hilarious, and disarmingly commiserative fiction debut stems from his stand-up performances and his Emmy Award–winning work on the comedy series, The Office, as writer, actor, director, and executive producer. Accordingly, his more concise stories come across as brainy comedy bits, while his sustained tales covertly encompass deep emotional and psychological dimensions. An adept zeitgeist miner, Novak excels at topsy-turvy improvisations on a dizzying array of subjects, from Aesop’s fables to tabloid Elvis to our oracular enthrallment to the stock market. A master of cringe, Novak imagines a blind date with a warlord, a Comedy Central TV roast of Nelson Mandela, and a mortifying misunderstanding between mega-best-selling novelist John Grisham and his new editor. Writing with zing and humor in the spirit of Woody Allen and Steve Martin, Novak also ventures into the realm of George Saunders and David Foster Wallace. A boy wins a breakfast-cereal contest and discovers a shocking family secret. A sex robot falls in love. A man reveals the heartbreak behind the universally dreaded math problem about the two trains leaving the stations at different times. Baseline clever and fresh, at best spectacularly perceptive, and always commanding, Novak’s ingeniously ambushing stories of longing, fear, pretension, and confusion reveal the quintessential absurdities and transcendent beauty of our catch-as-catch-can lives. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Novak’s television fame is an instant lure, one that will be pitched far and wide as Novak appears on major talk shows and travels to 20 cities in concert with an immense print and online ad campaign. –Donna Seaman
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