If you buy only one quirky, surreal collection of comedy short stories about relationships this year, make it Simon Rich’s The Last Girlfriend on Earth (Serpent’s Tail, £9.99).
This is an endlessly inventive, laugh-out-loud book that makes some acute points about males and relationships in a way that will have most men simultaneously nodding knowingly and shifting uncomfortably in their seats.
Rich is happy to attack the big topics. For example, in Centre of the Universe, he writes about the Creation.
On the first day, God created the heavens and the earth. On the second day, God separated the oceans from the sky. Then on the third day, “God’s girlfriend came over and said He’d been acting distantly lately.
“‘I’m sorry’, God said. ‘Things have been crazy this week at work.’”
There are many such genius moments. One story is about a government agent who has been given the power of invisibility so that he can track down enemies of the state and save the world but who spends the vital 48 hours stalking his ex-girlfriend who is on a date with a new man. Dog Missed Connections is a canine take on the matter. “Saw you by the Dumpster, eating a pile of what seemed to be human vomit. You seemed like someone who doesn’t take himself too seriously.”
In the Adventure of the Spotted Tie, we realise Sherlock Holmes can detect just about anything apart from the fact that his girlfriend is seeing another guy. And there is the poignant tale of Xander, a brilliant scientist who has fallen down on the crucial matter of buying his girlfriend nice birthday presents: “Quantum physics and nuclear hydraulics were trivial compared to the rigours of gift shopping.”
It’s fairly spooky that Rich, though still in his 20s, has such telling and very humorous insights into the shortcomings and sensitivities of the male psyche.
You will easily read the 208 pages of this book in a single evening — and this is a one-night stand you will definitely want to tell your friends about.