But, like, you don't even know how hard I have it...

But, like, you don’t even know how hard I have it…

“They buried my wife in a shoe box in Central Park.”

Writing funny literature is probably one of the hardest tasks imaginable. My own novel has been deemed witty, but I will never be able to compare to Simon Rich. Probably one of the funniest people to have come out of America in the last … well, ever, actually … Rich formerly wrote for Saturday Night Live, has worked for Pixar and has now just released his sixth book, despite only just having turned thirty.

If I didn’t like his work so much, I’d be jealous.

I’ve covered Rich twice already on this blog, with his novella What In God’s Name? and his previous collection of short stories, The Last Girlfriend On Earth. In those, each was about a different aspect of love. Here, he has once again themed his thirteen short stories to be around, obviously, spoiled brats. It’s sort of a love letter to Generation Y and the Millennials, albiet a love letter that says, “There you are, you’re alright, but keep away from me”. The stories are consistently funny, smart and generally wonderful, with plenty of moments of laugh out loud hilarity. Few writers have ever made me laugh as hard as Rich does. I’ll pick out my favourite stories here and discuss them.

“Animals” is the story of a hamster with strong Christian values who lives in a classroom populated by the bratty children of wealthy parents. You know the sort of kids – the kind that are endlessly disruptive but have never been told that they’re wrong, merely that everyone’s happy they’re at least joining in. The hamster must keep himself and his sons alive, but it is difficult when none of the students seem to want to bother feeding him. It’s a hilariously dark story.

“Sell Out” is the longest story by far in the collection and is the story of Simon himself meeting his great-great-grandfather Herschel who has been pickled in brine for the last 100 years and has emerged now absolutely fine but not understanding the modern world at all. It beautifully showcases what have become known as “first world problems” and the differences in life between then and now. For example, when Herschel finds Simon kicking his desk in frustration and swearing loudly, he assumes someone close to him must have died, remembering those people who worked in the factory with him getting crushed by the gears. As it turns out, the Internet is down.

“Rip” is about a musician who falls asleep at twenty-seven and wakes up three years later to find he’s thirty and his former bandmates now work in advertising, have steady partners, don’t play music anymore and are happy to sit around and discuss diets and thyroids.

Probably my favourite, though, is “Semester Abroad” about a girl in the year 3014 who is taking a semester to study on Saturn (because, like, everyone else is going to Mars…) and it’s written in that dire teenage girl voice with “like” every five words. However, it’s so smart and not a word is wasted, as you realise you’ve probably already met this girl. She’s annoyed with the crew who make her turn her phone off, even though, like, she’s right in the middle of texting her boyfriend Derek. And then when they’re on Saturn, it just gets worse because the natives have gone to war with a neighbouring tribe and, like, she knows that’s happening, but like, it does mean there’s no nightlife and there’s poor reception on her phone. And, like, that’s so not what she signed up for. A genius bit of writing.

It’s a magical collection and while the hipsters might get a rough ride from it, it’s smart enough to accept that they aren’t going anywhere and maybe having a dream or two isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It playfully toys with the ideals and situations that exist in our new world, but Rich acknowledges that he’s part of it too, given that he makes himself a character in one of the stories and rips the piss out of himself throughout. There are no dud stories and each one explodes like a riotous firework in your hands as you struggle to keep the laughs down.

Rich is a phenomenal talent and I look forward to more from him, as I’m sure with age he’s only going to improve.

If you want a sample of what to expect from his work, the story “Guy Walks Into A Bar” is available online to whet your appetite.

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