Between the tweets about Brexit and Trump, the Twitter algorithm likes to show me snippets of people’s love lives. From self-deprecating jokes inspired by heartbreak and sassy memes about your cheating ex to inspiring quotes with handclap emojis about not faking orgasms and #RelationshipGoals. Even those not looking for love seem compelled to tell everyone just how happy they are in their independent singleness. I mean, there is a lot more bed to go around when you don’t have to share the sheets, am I right? Love: it’s either the inescapable ruler of our daily lives or it’s waiting on the sidelines for its chance to assert dominion over us. But what’s so great about love?
Well Raphael Bob-Waksberg, creator of BoJack Horseman (one of my all-time favourite TV shows), explores what is so great and not-so-great about love in his first collection of prose. Someone Who Will Love You In All Your Damaged Glory contains tales of different kinds of love, including the familial (not like that!) as well as between a man and his dog (no, not like that either!), and they succeed in doing what also makes BoJack Horseman so compelling. You’ll be immersed in another of Bob-Waksberg’s absurd worlds, allowing air to escape your nose at perfectly timed gags, whilst an invisible hand wriggles its way into your rib cage. By the time you’ve noticed, it’s too late, your heart has been clenched in a tight fist.
She told him she loved him and cared about him, and he was so dizzy in love himself he didn’t realize she was breaking up with him.
Each story is set in a world mostly familiar but with the added oddities we come to now expect from Bob-Waksberg. For example, “A Most Blessed and Auspicious Occasion” centres on a couple’s preparation for their big day, asking profound questions such as: How many goats should one sacrifice to the Stone God at a wedding? And will they not do the Dance of the Cuckolded Woodland Sprite? But amongst the absurd traditions and unwanted opinions from friends and family is a powerful message about what marriage is really about.
Shorter tales of only a few pages break-up the longer tales in the collection. These include: “Lies We Told Each Other (a partial list)”, a title that I think says enough; “short stories”, ten very short tales of one or two sentences like the one in the above quote; and “Lunch with the Person Who Dumped You”, a humorous breakdown of the “what-ifs” when you meet up with your ex for lunch. Often humorous, sometimes painful, these little stories demonstrate the unpredictable creativity of Bob-Waksberg and keeps the book feeling fresh from its first page to its last.
“I love it,” she lied, and she tried to look happy, though truly
the whole thing was frightening.
Engaged in escaping the knots of her past, she’d been blind
to the new noose now tightening.
My personal highlights are “Rufus” and the penultimate of the longer tales: “The Average of All Possible Things.” The former is told from the perspective of Rufus, the canine companion to a man entering a new relationship. It’s a clever, defamiliarising story that is as funny as it is wholesome. It’s bound to be any dog-lover’s favourite, and maybe it’ll even convert the most stubborn of feline fans. Whilst the latter is the story that hit closest to home for me, so much so that I had to shed a tear several times to unblur my vision so I could read to the end.
There are plenty of surprises to be found in this book, and I’m hesitant to say too much more in fear of spoiling something better discovered for yourself. But if you love BoJack Horseman, you’ll love this. If you haven’t watched BoJack Horseman yet then you should, and then maybe pick this up to fill the void bingeing BoJack (ill-advised but inevitable) will create. And if you believe you don’t have a heart, maybe this is a good test to find out if it’s true. You may just cradle this book in your arms for something to hold by the end of it.