Years before the BoJack Horseman creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg would earn critical acclaim for his animated Netflix show about a depressed equine actor, the writer attempted a different kind of artistic leap: He tried to woo a woman with his own version of a mixtape. Over the course of a month, he assembled all of his favorite poems, short stories, and articles into a document that he then photocopied at Kinko’s.
Speaking at a diner in New York City late last month, Bob-Waksberg recalled thinking, “She’s really going to see everything that I feel, and she’s gonna know me so well.” But the would-be recipient rebuffed his attempt to give her the scrapbook in person, so he kept working on it for himself. And Bob-Waksberg still carries the influences he charted back then. The BoJack showrunner’s debut short-story collection, Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory, channels much of the same caustic humor and heartrending dialogue as the Netflix series. The stories alternate between surreal, sci-fi–inspired tales and more grounded vignettes, but many are a poignant mixture of both tones.
The collection’s opening story, for example, begins with a fairly mundane setting: A first date takes a curious turn when a woman is offered salted circus cashews by her suitor. Bob-Waksberg heightens the tension slowly. The story goes on to detail the message written on the cashew can, which reveals the woman’s ambivalence—in the past, she’s encountered a series of cans filled with snakes. It’s an absurd premise, to be sure, but the trepidation resonates. The fine print on the can’s label ends the story: “This time is different; I promise you it’s different. Why would I lie to you? Why would I want to hurt you? This time there is no snake waiting. This time things are going to be wonderful.”