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If it’s true that reality TV, celebrity culture, and technology will one day lead to America’s emotional and cultural bankruptcy, nobody told Elizabeth Crane. Everything the highest-minded of us regard as trivial becomes literary fodder in You Must Be This Happy to Enter, her third story collection. A couple of stories center on wannabe reality-show contestants; others are populated with zombies and time travelers who could come straight out of a B-movie. Crane’s protagonists can pluck sitcom characters right out of the TV and drop them into real life, or raise a toddler who turns into Ethan Hawke overnight. If pop culture is nothing but empty calories, there’s no reason why the book should be an enriching collection. But it is, and its success hinges on Crane’s conviction that storytelling—or life, for that matter—doesn’t always have to be tragic, desperate, or even especially embattled. The story “Sally (Featuring: Lollipop the Rainbow Unicorn)” begins, “There is not one thing even a little bit sad about this story. This is pretty much the happiest story ever. If you’re all up into War and Peace or whichever, you won’t find it here.” Instead, the story is about a woman who has always been comfortable in her own skin. Conflict be damned—if there’s any sag in the story’s narrative arc it comes from peripheral characters looking on at Sally, admiring as she does her own thing. That’s not to imply the stories lack conflict or emotional depth; what they do lack, thankfully, is artificial melodrama. In fact, for all the imaginative and improbable content, some of Crane’s most successful stories are built on relatively mundane premises. In “What Our Week Was Like,” a breathless narrator recounts college party after college party until she’s eventually overcome by the superficiality and pointlessness of her efforts. In “Promise,” a narrator talks to her future child, offering assurances such as, “If you want to wear a trench coat every day, that’s cool, but if you hoard ammo in the garage, I will not pretend that’s not fucked up,” punctuated by, “I will love you so hard.” Crane’s playful tendencies evince a sincere sense of longing and vulnerability reminiscent of Miranda July or Douglas Coupland, propelled by a consistently hilarious conversational tone and an inimitable liveliness. That energy can take over at times, making her writing feel overexuberant, almost manic. (“My Life Is Awesome! And Great!” is almost solely punctuated with exclamation points.) And though Crane’s tossed-off style recalls some of the better blogs, that also means some of her stories feel unedited or incomplete. (“Notes for a Story About People With Weird Phobias” is just that: notes.) Ultimately, though, You Must Be This Happy is simply fun—Crane has taken the fluffiest parts of pop culture and imbued them with sympathy and depth. For those of us with a collection of unread classics looming on our bookshelves, gathering dust as we watch Project Runway, there is a certain amount of relief in the assurance that this book won’t be—isn’t even interested in being—War and Peace. And who couldn’t love a story that takes some of the guilt out of society’s guiltiest pleasures?