Books

Hits & Misses, Simon Rich; Live Work Work Work Die, Corey Pein

All Jane Graham wants in this hot weather is something that makes her laugh out loud. The answer; get Rich quick.

There are a few weighty and profound tomes out this month, tackling crucial issues like racism, identity, landscape and myth. There are also a couple of significant novels with illuminating insights into love and loss. (Everyone knows you can’t go wrong with love and loss.) However, with temperatures still hovering exhaustingly above the annual norm, I find I barely have the energy to lift a 600 page tome, even if its philosophical heaviosity justifies its literal one. And so I find myself seeking out new work which succeeds in making me do the one physical thing I still have an inkling for; laughing out loud.

Hits & Misses, Simon Rich
1320_Books_jacket_Hitsandmisses

Those with a particular interest in prodigious comic writers of the most outlandish kind will already be aware of Simon Rich. The thirtysomething New Yorker was one of the youngest writers ever employed as a scriptwriter by Saturday Night Live, and went on to pen a number of gratefully received short story collections and novels. He also wrote bits of Pixar’s sublime Inside Out and an episode of The Simpsons.

You already hate him obviously; but the annoying thing is – as his latest collection, Hits & Misses, shows – he really is extremely funny, in that whipsmart, zeitgeist-savvy way that east-coast Harvard-educated Jewish jokesmiths often are. 

There are times he sounds like fellow nebbish Woody Allen, his similes are so perfect, his dialogue so zippy

You’re probably thinking of that other snappy NY-born storyteller David Sedaris, but Rich is faster and looser, more surreal and less autobiographical (as well as about half Sedaris’ age.) He’s also funnier. One of his most vocal fans is east coast Harvard-educated Jewish jokesmith BJ Novak, who co-wrote the sublime American version of The Office. Rich is that kind of funny. There are times he sounds like fellow nebbish Woody Allen, his similes are so perfect, his dialogue so zippy. 

There are precious moments on every page. A father-to-be becomes distracted, and rushes through the once tender ritual of massaging his wife’s belly ‘like a squeegee man at a red light’; the devil deflates God’s self-esteem by pointing out how many Bar Mitzvahs now have themes like ‘Broadway’ or ‘New York Sports Teams’, showing him Bill Maher YouTube clips, and asking in an aggressive manner ‘Sup now?’ A flailing novelist nurtures resentment for his unborn son when his ultrasound reveals the foetus to be writing an audacious Great American Novel about General Custer (who, in woke Lin-Manuel Miranda style, he has made ‘not a little gay, fully gay’). Such gems make this collection enormous fun to read, the only downside being that you’ll devour it in a day.

Live Work Work Work Die, Corey Pein
1320_Books_jacket_WorkWorkDie

Silicon Valley casualty Corey Pein’s Live Work Work Work Die isn’t quite laugh out loud, but the story of journalist Pein’s experience of failing in the tech capital of the world is as amusing as it is horrifying.

Pein swipes his sharp sword of truth through an ugly, cold-blooded, deceitful culture which has sold itself as creative, benign and forward-thinking; and though his tone is more gonzo than Woodward & Bernstein, the reality of the maggot-ridden underbelly of Silicon Valley is made crystal clear.

He pulls no punches about the sinister and reactionary power imbalances, the oppression of individuals and social groups, the might of selfish, greedy tycoons and heady venture capitalists. Not to mention the misogyny and racism rampant among the multitudes of failed, bitter entrepreneurs whose dreams has been skewered by the system. This is Silicon Valley as reflected in the uncensored black mirror and I, for one, believed every word.

Hits & Misses, Simon Rich, (Serpent’s Tail from £8.99)

Live Work Work Work Die, Corey Pein, out now, (Scribe UK £9.99)

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Top 5 books about the British seaside, chosen by crime writer William Shaw
Books

Top 5 books about the British seaside, chosen by crime writer William Shaw

The Other Valley by Scott Alexander Howard review – the moral conundrums of coming of age
Books

The Other Valley by Scott Alexander Howard review – the moral conundrums of coming of age

Fragile Animals by Genevieve Jagger review – a captivating and original gothic novel
Books

Fragile Animals by Genevieve Jagger review – a captivating and original gothic novel

From castle walls to Banksy: How graffiti has given us the writing on the wall throughout history
Graffiti

From castle walls to Banksy: How graffiti has given us the writing on the wall throughout history

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know