BJ Novak and I share the same favorite story from his debut novel, One More Thing.
For a while, I could quote it from memory, mostly because I’d read it to everyone. Or I’d shove the book in their face and say, “Read this! You have to! It’s only three pages, and it contains the most gorgeous prose I’ve ever read in my life.” I read it to my parents. To Mr. D. I would read it to Big A at night, and when she once announced her dreams of becoming an astronaut, I beamed like the light from a thousands moons.
When I met BJ Novak at a book signing last fall, I asked him to sign my favorite story from the collection, and he said it might just be his favorite one, too.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” I replied, pointing to the very subtle reference from the very last story of the book.
“I don’t think anyone has ever noticed that,” he said.
I’ve replayed our entire exchange many, many times since then, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I would only do two things differently were I able to travel back in time: I would have ordered another Book with No Pictures for him to sign (the ones at the event were too expensive, and my dog, in the late stages of bone cancer, had vomited all over our original copy), and I would have asked him to sign our favorite story as JC Audetat, a private joke all of our own.
Mr. D knows I love BJ Novak. He even said, “I hope you get an interview” when I went to see his show. (I didn’t, though we did have that brief moment in the book sign line). I like to think of myself as the Mindy Kaling to Mr. D’s BJ Novak, the effervescent Indian counterpart to a supremely brilliant and hilarious White guy, but that may be where the similarities end. As much as I would love to see them get back together (they’d have the sweetest, funniest daughters!), I don’t know if BJ Novak feels like I do about love.
I’m judging this solely from his short story collection, of course, and more specifically, from the narrator’s second fantasy in “Sophia,” in which a woman’s head rests on a man’s shoulder as they look out into the world and see the same thing. I loaned my copy of One More Thing to my Weed Husband a few months back, so this is a tough theory to fact check at this very moment, but I’m pretty sure most of Novak’s love stories are connected by an underlying thread of shared experiences and, more so, shared outlooks: the couple who outraced the rain, the man with “a good problem to have,” the family who attended the world’s biggest rip-off. Even the most beautiful girl in the bookstore. Especially the most beautiful girl in the bookstore.
It’s a two-page story about a girl who loves a bookstore that sells books and and also sells things. Her boyfriend doesn’t quite understand her love for it, and they disagree on whether the books should be organized by color (they should not), or whether the store would be better with a photo booth (it absolutely would), and in the end, they break up because she could never shake the feeling that she was always his favorite thing in the bookstore.
The hopeless romantic in me hates this story. Like, what the hell, BJ Novak? Why did they have to break up? In the wise words of Carrie Bradshaw, “If you find someone to love the you that you love, well, that’s just fabulous.” Who cares if he didn’t love the bookstore? He loved her.
Or maybe that’s just what I’m telling myself now, at 12:46am, on the night of the Hunter’s Moon.