From the bizarre mind that dreamed up Bojack Horseman comes a new collection of short stories completely unlike most collections being published today. Bob-Waksberg’s Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory tells eighteen stories that almost all deal with romance and love, but in a weird, surreal mishmash that fans of his TV shows know pretty well. That’s not to say that these are connected to those projects, but that humor transfers remarkably well to the page. While mostly avoiding animal perspectives, Bob-Waksberg presents a surprisingly solid and innovative collection of stories that rank among the best I’ve read all year.
So these stories are hilarious, but they also come across as surprisingly original. The opening story, “Salted Circus Cashews, Swear to God,” begins with the eye-roll inducing bar opening and ends on the label of, well, a can of Salted Circus Cashews. And yet, it satisfies, as well as drawing a laugh. Every story has humor, but they still contain blood and real hurting characters. “You Want to Know What Plays Are Like?” presents us with not only a scathing indictment of terrible plays, but of the emotions and denial behind people who cross the line between sardonic and bully. It also presents probably the best usage of the second person in a collection that uses the second person liberally. The stories here play around with form and style a lot, ranging from a Craigslist ad to “Rules for Taboo” to one story told by from a dog’s perspective.
For all its innovation in style, however, the collection reaches its zenith when it chills out in familiar structures and goes crazy on tone and content. The superhero theme in “up-and-comers” punches guilty holes in the invincibility of youth in an epicurean culture. Tough issues like alcoholism and suicide recieve serious treatment even against a happy-go-lucky rock ‘n roll backdrop. Of the many musings on single-hood (singleness? singularity?) that this collection offers, “The Average of Possible Things” offers the most moments of the familiar and cringe-worthy. Recently broken-up with Lucinda obsesses over her boss/former lover and all while coming to terms with how much domesticity really means to her. However, my favorite story of all has to be “More of the You Than You Already Are,” which blissfully occupies the surreal case of an American presidents themed amusement park that adds a hybrid clone of the first ten presidents to the staff. The story, told by an employee who has to dress up as Chester Arthur everyday, rolls along in a conversational tone that warps the character to Chester Arthur’s world and not the other way around. When Chester Arthur points out that his coworkers don’t even know his name, it glaringly reveals that he never even gave his own name.
But no writer can completely escape cliche, sadly, and it’s the sappy cliches that rear their heads the most. Even in, “More of the You,” Chester Arthur’s bedridden sister feels a little too wise and pitiful. At worst, these stories tend to overplay their own jokes. “A Most Blessed and Auspicious Occasion” in particular lays its observations about how specific and sentimental wedding traditions can be on real, real thick. If not placed so early in the book, it might easily be overshadowed by the other great stories here. The aforementioned dog story, “rufus.” turns everything you could possibly hate about animal narrators up to eleven, but it’s yet another love story, not some comment about animals and writing. These stories easily fit in with the rest of the collection, but at times they represent missed opportunities for restraint.
As a whole, the stories in Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory show a brand of storytelling laced with humor and the surreal. The strangeness of these stories can take some getting used, and may be a bit, but fans will just find more to love. As independent pieces, too, they can be taken slowly, in shots of the weird injected into daily life. Existing fans of Bojack, fans who already miss Tuca & Bertie, and fans of the short story looking for a ride should devour this book.
Favorite quote: “The Museum of You is now open for business, every piece of you hung up a wall, laid bare on a table, harshly lit and awkward displayed.”
Page count: 247
Four out of five stars