B.J. Novak wrote for and costarred in NBC’s hit series “The Office” for eight seasons, a quiet member of a hilariously brash ensemble, playing the smug Ryan Howard. So when he unleashed his literary debut, “One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories” (Alfred A. Knopf: 276 pp., $24.95), as part of a two-book, seven-figure deal with the literary stalwart publisher, there was no reason to think that Novak wasn’t just another actor with writerly delusions.
In fact, he was succumbing to his fate.
Sitting at the Bowery Hotel on the slush-stormy morning after his book party, Novak says that growing up, “I wanted to be a baseball player, or a real estate mogul, or an actor. I wanted to do something that felt big to me.”
The literary world seemed anything but grand to the young Novak, who had an unusual close-up view of the book business. His father, William Novak, was the co-editor of “The Big Book of Jewish Humor” and a hugely successful ghostwriter who built his career on being fame-adjacent and invisible.
Novak senior penned the autobiographies of Magic Johnson, Oliver North and Nancy Reagan. He also wrote “one of the most popular nonfiction books of all time,” as The Times noted in 1992, referring to the bestselling “Iacocca,” which sold 2.7 million copies (and, as is often the case, earned the writer a flat fee with no royalties) — while being “unknown to most Americans.” But having the proximity to greatness and wit may not have appealed to Novak junior as much as being the creator of greatness and wit.
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