THE LAST GIRLFRIEND ON EARTH
by Simon Rich
Fiction: Short Stories
Reagan Arthur Books; Jan. 22, 2013
Ebook; 213 pages
The Last Girlfriend on Earth is a collection of short stories that explore the classic themes of boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl — but in hilarious, unexpected ways. There’s a story made up of missed connections ads written by dogs, a repair shop that fixes grumpy girlfriends, and a program for “high-risk” youths in danger of long-term relationships.
These stories are the funniest things I have read in quite a while. It’s clear Rich is really enjoying playing with the tropes of nagging girlfriends, men afraid of commitments, the silly rituals of dating, and the way love (or the search for love) makes people act in crazy, irrational ways.
In “Occupy Jen’s Street,” a college student is angry that a co-ed won’t dump her boyfriend for him, so he begins picketing outside her dorm, and his protest quickly becomes a national movement.
“It’s not just about Jen,” he said. “It’s about the entire romantic system. Ninety-nine percent of men are in love with the top one percent of women. And yet they often refuse to date us. It’s a complicated injustice.”
There’s also a NASA astronaut proposing a study on sex in space so he can sleep with with the lovely lady with whom he shares the Alpha Space Orb, a man whose ex-girlfriend is dating Hitler (which is extra disturbing because he’s 124), and a CIA agent who uses his limited supply of invisibility serum not to track a terrorist who is plotting to destroy the US, but to follow the ex he can’t get over. Oh, and you know that story in Plato’s Symposium about how in the old days people were man-man, man-woman, and woman-woman, but Zeus got jealous of their happiness and split everyone apart, so that from then on, everyone wandered around trying to find their other half? According to Rich, there was a fourth sex of people with just one half, and these are the lonely souls who will never find a match.
In my favorite story of the collection, “Victory,” a man named Josh wakes up next to the girl he had met in a bar the previous night. The two had had a great time, and when Lydia leaves his apartment to meet her roommate, they make plans to see each other again. A few minutes later, Josh gets a call from the president. Of the United States. He’s just calling to congratulate Josh on his achievement, telling him he’s an inspiration to men everywhere. Soon, though, the president is interrupted by a call from the MacArthur Foundation; they’re awarding him a genius grant! All of these powerful people are super impressed that he successfully picked up a girl, and they want to know how he did it. And there’s paparazzi! It’s totally absurd and absolutely fun to read.
Each story takes no more than a few minutes to read, and it would be easy to gobble up this entire collection in a single sitting. (I didn’t do this because of work, but oh man, how I wanted to.) The Last Girlfriend on Earth is a ridiculously funny look at the ups and downs of romance, and I highly recommend it!