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New Teeth: Stories


New Teeth: Stories

When I reviewed Simon Rich’s previous book of humorous short stories, HITS AND MISSES, back in 2018, I called it “just the fictional antidote people need right now.” Little did I know that this statement could be even more aptly applied to his latest collection, NEW TEETH.

Rich, who first cut his own teeth at the Harvard Lampoon and since has done a variety of comedic writing for everyone from Pixar to The New Yorker, is now a dad with young daughters. As in HITS AND MISSES, the mundane anxieties, annoyances and joys of parenting small children surface in these new stories in fresh and funny ways.

"There are laugh-out-loud moments in NEW TEETH, to be sure, but there are also moments of quietly witty introspection or reflection."

Right off the bat, in “Learning the Ropes,” two pirates reluctantly become foster parents of a little girl and teach her the principles of piracy, even though doing so might be making them a bit soft: “For example, instead of scouring the high seas for treasure, we mainly just stay in the Bermuda Triangle, because even though you sometimes feel trapped there, it be having the best schools.”

“The Big Nap,” as you might suspect, is a sendup of classic hardboiled detective fiction, with a tough-talking but charmingly naïve preschool narrator. In “Chip,” a frustrated screenwriter finds himself haunted by the talking teacup from BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. To close out the book, “Everyday Parenting Tips” starts with a Q&A about monsters under the bed and quickly goes off the rails into absurdity before circling back to a touchingly fierce defense of family.

Not all of the stories have parenting at their heart, though. In “Laserdisc,” the title character comes to terms with his own mortality. In “Revolution,” a clueless aristocrat tries to slum it with the peasants during a period of unrest but finds he’s unable to escape his origins. And in “Screwball,” Rich imagines the dynamic between a little-known minor league player named Babe Ruth and his rival for a spot on the team. In the author’s note at the end of the volume, he reveals the historical research he did for this story, which is also informed by archival photographs.

There are laugh-out-loud moments in NEW TEETH, to be sure, but there are also moments of quietly witty introspection or reflection. Rich plays with genre and with expectations, and he mixes short sketch-like pieces (several of which were originally published in The New Yorker) with longer, more developed narratives. The only question for readers is if you swallow this collection whole, or bite off bits and pieces to savor every time you need a little levity.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on August 13, 2021

New Teeth: Stories
by Simon Rich

  • Publication Date: July 26, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor, Short Stories
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books
  • ISBN-10: 0316536679
  • ISBN-13: 9780316536677