cover image New Teeth: Stories

New Teeth: Stories

Simon Rich. Little, Brown, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-316-53668-4

Rich’s uneven humor collection (after Hits and Misses) features a series of clueless narrators trying to grapple with life while everyone else deals with it just fine. The author makes the most of this conceit in the amusing “Screwball,” about Babe Ruth’s lack of understanding of the world outside baseball. In “Chip,” an office robot becomes obsolete after complaints about “his” “inability to socialize.” Less successful stories include the toothless satire “Revolution,” in which the privileged 14-year-old narrator thinks his valet is “grateful for the condescension” the narrator pays him in the form of requiring his presence at all times, even while using the bathroom. Rich can wring a laugh from irony, as in “Laserdisc,” about a man who treasures his collection of films on the outdated format (“John would utter a phrase so erotic it was essentially physically irresistible: ‘You know, I actually have that on LaserDisc’ ”), but the stories tend to be one note. “Beauty and the Beast” feels like an extended commercial break for Disney, and “Case Study,” a riff on The Elephant Man, gets silly, but not in a good way. Arguably the best entry is “The Big Nap,” which is like The Big Sleep told from a two-year-old’s point of view. If only the rest of the stories had been as clever. Agent: Daniel Greenberg, Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary. (July)