New Teeth

Humorist and novelist Simon Rich's New Teeth is a warmhearted, laugh-out-loud collection of 11 stories about the pressures of modern life and the importance of family. Family values take center stage in "Learning the Ropes," in which two bloodthirsty pirates learn to parent a charming toddler, as well as in "The Big Nap," in which a two-year-old hardboiled detective teams up with his new baby sister to solve one of life's mysteries. Meanwhile, in "Chip" and "Clobbo," two unlikely employees--an outdated AI system and a once-beloved monkey superhero--learn that the unrelenting pace of today's workplace means nothing without a little human connection.

Rich's high-concept premises may seem ridiculous at first glance, but they consistently pay off with their recognizable conflicts, deeply clever twists and emotionally acute conclusions. Every story has a heart, and often one attuned to the redemptive power of the parent-child relationship. Additionally, Rich crafts his silliness with care, making these stories not only affectively engaging but also hysterically funny. Even in the collection's least-absurdist tale, "Screwball"--a retelling of Babe Ruth's rookie season--Rich (Spoiled Brats) displays his relentlessly dry humor while still finding a soft spot at the center of every joke. From the pirate-ized versions of couples' arguments in "Learning the Ropes" ("Arr, I guess you be perfect, and I be horrible, congratulations") to the even-handed advice-column confession that perhaps children really do have something living under their beds to fear (ever since the Great Monster Uprising in "Everyday Parenting Tips"), Rich uses his pitch-perfect irony and parody for good in this consistently entertaining collection. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

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