Friday, 5 April 2013

The Last Girlfriend on Earth, by Simon Rich

I don’t generally read books of short stories, but when a good friend recommended The Last Girlfriend on Earth (and Other Love Stories) because it is “made of awesome”, it seemed like too interesting an opportunity to miss. Especially because it turns out that my friend is right (no surprise: she usually is).

Simon Rich’s collection is eclectic, witty, funny and truthful. Split into three sections, Boy Meets Girl, Boy Gets Girl, and Boy Loses Girl, each story within is told from a different and always quirky perspective. There is the boy enchanted by a Siren, the Cupid who is shunning his duties, the caveman stuck in a love triangle, the boy being haunted by his ex-girlfriend’s stuff. And lots more besides, including, of course, The Last Girlfriend on Earth, where a mysterious disease has left a planet full of men - and just one woman. If she was your girlfriend, you’d naturally be a over protective wouldn’t you?

My personal favourites, though, have got to be the first and last stories in the book. Unprotected is funny and clever, and - despite being told from the point of view of an inanimate object - is very true to life; as an opener it’s a great introduction to what is to follow. Equally, Trade finishes the book off perfectly. After a chapter of break-ups and bittersweet tales (heavy on the bitter, though still amusing), Trade ends the book with a wonderfully uplifting note that made me feel all good about the world again.

There is a smirk or a snigger and a subtle truth on at least every other page, each tale being perfectly formed whether it is one or five pages long. Rich is both a master storyteller and a master reader and interpreter of everyday life and emotion. “Made of awesome” kind of seems like an understatement.

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