The New One: Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad is one of those weird books that started out as something else- while Birbiglia is a writer, he is probably best known as a stand-up comedian and an actor. He has had success in a variety of mediums, has authored multiple books, starred in films, and most recently, toured with the show this book is based upon, The New One. I was fortunate enough to see the show on its stop in Washington, DC, and it’s great to see in person, Like all of Birbiglia’s works, it is a deeply constructed, intensely intricate, uncomfortably intimate production. The book expands on those themes, featuring further stories and some poems by Birbiglia’s wife and writing partner, poet J. Hope Stein.
While I tend to distain further expansions of established works as money-grabs, The New One works on every level. Despite having watched the show once in person, and a second time when it became available on Netflix, the jokes still hit for me. Despite being familiar with the material, it still feels new, as it’s been refreshed by additional detail. The book is fundamentally about becoming a father, but doesn’t center fatherhood in the narrative of parenthood. Rather, Birbiglia centers his failure as a father, his failures to provide support, to connect with his wife and child, who have formed a unit. The book is about being a family, and how becoming a new kind of family is difficult. It is not just funny, like a lot of books by comedians, but Birbiglia’s work always has that undercurrent of existential dread, so that’s no surprise. The poems were occasionally quite profound, but the book would have benefited from truncating those sections a tad.
This book is well worth a read, especially if you’ve enjoy Mike Birbiglia’s other exploits. If you’re interested in The New One, you can view it on Netflix. The New One: Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad is also available wherever books are sold, or to check out from your local library. If you are buying it from Amazon, you can support us by using our affiliate link.