cover image The Last Girlfriend on Earth: And Other Love Stories

The Last Girlfriend on Earth: And Other Love Stories

Simon Rich. Little, Brown/Reagan Arthur, $19.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-316-21939-6

Man, boy, and beast traverse the slippery slope of love in the latest effort from young funnyman Rich (Elliot Allagash). The collection launches with a bang of sorts, cleverly relaying the tale of an unused condom in the charming “Unprotected.” Narratives of invisible CIA agents, sex-starved aliens, and Neanderthals follow, and each skewer the notion of modern romance in stylish, quirky prose. But over the course of 30 stories, repetitive premises and redundant punch lines lead to disappointment. A feeling of déjà vu sinks in as men and women find themselves attached to a series of wacky lovers, from sirens and trolls to Mother Teresa and Santa Claus. Also, characters, regardless of age, gender, or occupation, often speak with the same blunt, slacker quality, such as the priest who, after exorcising a man’s apartment of his ex-girlfriend, says, “That’s, like, the most fucked up thing I’ve ever seen.” Nevertheless, the book contains gems. “Victory,” a surreal chronicle of one man’s successful bedding of a model, complete with congratulatory phone calls from both the president and the MacArthur Foundation, is genuinely funny. And “The Present,” which concerns a time-traveling professor and is devoid of the collection’s general cynicism, is both admirable and moving. Agent: Daniel Greenberg, Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. (Jan.)