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Hits and Misses: Stories


Hits and Misses: Stories

It feels like for the past few years, it has been easy for readers to immerse themselves in big serious books, both fiction and nonfiction, tackling such topics as rape culture, the changing environment, and all manner of political crises. That type of reading is important, even essential, to be sure --- but every once in a while the exhausted reader needs a little break. That’s where a book like Simon Rich’s new collection of short fiction, HITS AND MISSES, can perfectly fill the bill.

Rich, whose name may be familiar to readers of The New Yorker’s “Shouts & Murmurs” feature, is a young humorist and screenwriter who first rose to prominence as president of The Harvard Lampoon. He later wrote for Pixar and “Saturday Night Live,” as well as writing and producing a TV comedy, “Man Seeking Woman,” based on one of his own short story collections.

"HITS AND MISSES is full of the kinds of snappy writing and short, well-crafted situations that make perfect sense given Rich's background."

HITS AND MISSES is full of the kinds of snappy writing and short, well-crafted situations that make perfect sense given Rich's background. Now in his mid-30s, though, Rich is married with young children. While the predicaments of dating and finding love were common subjects in his earlier work, new stories like “The Baby” (in which an aspiring novelist’s unborn child may be the real talent in the family) and “Relapse” (in which former musicians, artists and other creative types accede to suburbia) offer glimpses of new preoccupations, while “The Foosball Championship of the Whole Entire Universe” exhibits a sort of sweet (but truly hilarious) nostalgia for childhood.

Religion is also a theme that surfaces in some of the stories, such as “The Book of Simon” (in which God places a bet with the devil), “Upward Mobility” (in which an unscrupulous producer and his assistant have to talk their way into heaven), and “New Client” (which features an appearance by Death, who, it turns out, has acting aspirations).

The world of Hollywood in general, and screenwriting in particular, certainly surfaces in many of the stories. In the collection’s final (and longest) story, a washed-up filmmaker has a chance to lift a curse on a soundstage. In other entries, a terrible court jester is forced to make a career change, and in one particularly topical story, an over-the-hill TV writer is a literal dinosaur (with a tendency to make inappropriate jokes that traumatize his fellow writers).

Although there’s a risk of a certain kind of sameness or repetition to these kinds of stories, Rich varies the subject and tone sufficiently that readers will remain engaged. It also helps that many of the stories are only a half-dozen pages or so, as he is careful not to belabor his points and thereby keeps his writing funny and fresh, and his audience ready for more.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on July 27, 2018

Hits and Misses: Stories
by Simon Rich

  • Publication Date: July 24, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor, Satire, Short Stories
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • ISBN-10: 0316468894
  • ISBN-13: 9780316468893