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B.J. Novak: From an Actor to a Writer

bj novak bookApparently, in order to become a publishing writer one doesn’t have to, well, be a writer at all. It has been announced that B.J. Novak, most well-known for his roles in such movies as “Inglourious Basterds”, “The Office” and “The Mindy Project” has signed a two-book deal with Penguin Young Readers Group. And only several weeks later his collection of short stories, “One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories” will be published by Knopf, a publisher that worked with a number of Nobel Prize winners, such as Alice Munro and Toni Morrison.

To be completely fair, Mr. Novak is a writer, after a fashion – in addition to starring in “The Office” he was also its writer and producer. And he isn’t the sole example of a comedy writer getting into the world of literature – but the majority of them, for example, Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey, choose to write humorous essays, while B.J. Novak chose fiction.


Possible Future Literary Star?

Well, it will become clearer after his first book gets published. So far we know about three of his ongoing literary projects:

  • “One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories”, a short story collection.
  • Another work of fiction, to be published by Knopf.
  • “The Book with No Pictures”, a book for children due this autumn.
  • An as of yet unnamed follow-up to the previous one.

And it is without the readers ever seeing a single published book from him by now. Either his prose is so brilliant that two major publishing houses elected to take such a risk, or they hope that his popularity as an actor will serve as an advertisement in itself.


Unusual Choice of Direction

Novak states that he chose exactly this genre – humorous fiction – because it is what he likes to read himself and always wanted to write. As for “The Book with No Pictures”, it is an inversion of what one expects from a children’s book: lots of pictures, few words. In this work Novak wanted to show the young readers that words can be their friends and allies, as fascinating, interesting and funny as any picture or even more so. Also, as he jokes, the decision to make a children’s picture book with no pictures in it was dictated by the fact that he cannot draw.

All in all, Novak’s foray into the literary territory is a yet another example of a person famous in one field trying himself in another one. At least in this particular case we deal with somebody who has a background in what he is going to do: in addition to writing position for “The Office” he majored in English and Spanish literature while in Harvard.

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