Writer, director and comedian Nathan Fielder is having a moment. His 2022 HBO show The Rehearsal met universal acclaim, and his most recent work, The Curse, is a collaboration with Uncut Gems director Benny Safdie that aired its final episode on Showtime this month.
Fielder may still be best known for the Comedy Central classic Nathan for You, a reality series in which he attempts to help struggling business owners by implementing elaborate or absurd schemes, occasionally with real-world consequences.
If you find yourself wanting more of Fielder’s cringe comedy with a philosophical bent, here are some book recommendations for each of his shows.
Nathan For You
Helen DeWitt wrote Lightning Rods shortly after her acclaimed 2000 novel The Last Samurai, but it languished in publishing limbo for a decade. This weird little novel is about a failed vacuum cleaner salesman who devotes his life to a business plan meant to bring his niche erotic fantasy to life, to some bizarre success. The premise, nominally intended to reduce sexual harassment in the office, is bizarre and insulting, but despite the sensitive territory DeWitt’s satire is pitch-perfect and thoroughly enjoyable.
A lawsuit following a random near-death accident leaves the narrator of Remainder suddenly, unfathomably wealthy. Newly disabled, traumatized and struggling to fill his time, he assembles a massive team of producers, assistants and actors to recreate a selection of his memories, which escalate in their grandeur and violence. The obsessive process of reenactment, uncanniness of simulating life and frank discussion of the material costs of the project are similar enough to The Rehearsal that one wonders whether Fielder was inspired by the book.
If you enjoyed The Curse's critique of Whitney and Asher Siegel’s short-sighted neighborhood renewal project, Oval by Elvia Wilk explores similar themes. The book is set in a future where Berlin's remaining affordable housing is being demolished in favor of eco-friendly, barely functional luxury homes. The couple at the center of the book are tech consultants creating a designer drug meant to make people more generous in the hopes of saving the world.
The Curse does a great job at cultivating ambient anxiety. The long, sometimes unfocused shots of the New Mexico desert and hostile sound mixing share some resonance with Hiroko Oyamada’s short novel The Hole, about a newly unemployed Japanese housewife’s lonely exploration of the rural town her husband grew up in. The narrator has uncanny encounters with unidentifiable animals and unexplainable landscapes.
Which of Fielder’s shows is your favorite? What did you think of The Curse's ending?