“Spoiled Brats: Stories” by Simon Rich
Synopsis: Twenty years ago, Barney the Dinosaur told the nation’s children they were special. We’re still paying the price.
In his collection SPOILED BRATS, Simon Rich takes his absurd, culture-skewering style to new heights, marrying the literary polish of writers like Karen Russell and George Saunders with the humor of Steve Martin to deliver truly dazzling tales.
SPOILED BRATS is about the battles we fight with the ones who love us most: our parents. In “Family Business,” a young chimpanzee offends his working class father by choosing to become a research animal instead of joining the family grub-hunting business. In “Proud Mom,” a young mother is so besotted she doesn’t realize her child is actually, truly a monster. And in “Animals,” the fate of a terrified classroom hamster hangs in the balance when a notorious kid is picked for hamster care duty.
SPOILED BRATS confirms Rich as one of the most “adept, inarguably funny” (San Francisco Chronicle) young writers at work today.
3 out of 5 stars
This is an amazing, horrific, funny, bizarre, and crass collection of short stories and vignettes. It’s a quick read with some laugh out loud moments and some horrible ones as well. The majority of the stories are exceptionally well written and all of them will make you think.
The theme of all the stories in this book is that of spoiled brats. Whether that brat is the main character, or interacts with the main character, or is in some other fashion in the story there is always a spoiled brat. I loved this, that all the stories have the same reoccurring theme. I also think it’s quite funny that two of the brats in the stories are named Simon. Coincidence? Probably not.
There were a few that stood out for me that I wanted to share.
“Animal” is the story that opens the book and to be honest, I was shocked. It is a fairly accurate (to me) story of the abuse that a family of hamsters faces at the hands of a child in a classroom setting. Told in the first person narrative of the hamster’s point of view, it was chilling to read of the total disregard of life at the hands of this child (Simon) and the lack of care given by the teacher. Starving and battered, the hamster reaches his breaking point and bites the child, but whose fault is that? Certainly not the child’s!
I almost didn’t finish the book because this story affected me so much. It’s well written and quite powerful for a short story, but I feel that it is misplaced here. Most of the rest of the stories have at least a thread of humor in them. “Animal” did not.
“Elf on the Shelf”. I’m not sure how to say I liked this story without saying I liked this story. It’s not a pretty or sweet story at all. This is the story of an actual Elf on the Shelf, send to monitor the behavior of a child and report back to Santa whether or not he or she deserves a Christmas gift or coal. The child he’s assigned to is a 10 year old monster who decides to use the Elf as a masturbation tool and lights him on fire. Hopefully reporting that kind of behavior to Santa will make it stop!
“Sell Out” is the best of the bunch and is the most fleshed out story, more of a novella. It’s the story of (once again) Simon’s great-great grandfather waking up 100 years after he was pickled in a keg of brine. Awakening in modern day Brooklyn he must learn to adapt and learn to survive. This is a great example of the clash between classes and a well done satire on hipster culture.
I’m glad I finished the book as I did enjoy it. Looking at it, I do understand why “Animal” is first – it’s the best hook of the bunch to reel you into the rest of the book. I haven’t read anything else by Simon Rich but look forward to doing so.
The cover is perfect!