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Apathy and Other Small Victories Paperback – June 26, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 212 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Like many a hip young literary antihero these days, the protagonist of this hilarious if aimless debut is sunk in slacker anomie. Shane has a monotonous temp job at an insurance agency, where he is supposed to alphabetize paperwork but instead spends his time sleeping on the toilet. After work, he is besieged by a gallery of grotesques: a vapid girlfriend who sexually brutalizes him; an absurdly macho neighbor with a leather-clad guinea pig for a sex slave; and his dentist's deaf assistant, who sings atonal karaoke, teaches him to sign obscenities and furnishes a wispy narrative thread by getting murdered. In a world both banal and assaultive, Shane can only drink, steal salt shakers and cultivate his sense of irony; "[t]here's only so much you can do," he shrugs, "and even that's not worth the trouble." Shane's malaise doesn't feel earned; job aside, there are just too many gonzo goings-on—the landlord, for instance, is paying him to have sex with his wife—for him to feel so listless. There's not much to Shane besides a defiant dejectedness, but from that Neilan spins many sparkling comic riffs on the tawdriness and sterility of American life. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Shane's a numb loser in a city full of freaks. He learned to swear in sign language so he could converse with his dentist's deaf hygienist, but now she's dead, and the police want answers and fluid samples. When it's not sending up crime novels, the narrative satirizes soulless corporate life, but Shane is hard to take either way. In a rare moment of honest assessment, he notes, "I have always thought of people as punch lines." And that's what this book is: an onrushing series of twisted gags, some of them hilarious, others not so much. (Neilan would be funnier if he wasn't so smugly sure of how funny he is.) A highlight: "And then there was some sex . . . We were like two dead fish being slapped together by an off-duty clown." Remember those "Deep Thoughts with Jack Handey" throwaways that used to run between sketches on Saturday Night Live? This is a (barely) novel-length version of that kind of humor. In other words, juvenile fun for undiscerning lads with two hours to kill. A mystery for the Maxim generation. Frank Sennett
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (June 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312352190
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312352196
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 0.7 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (212 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,692 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I can't express how funny this book is. It satirizes that 95% of the world that makes your life more miserable with each passing minute. The breakup scene beginning on page 172 makes me so happy that I want to hang it on my wall. His ex-girlfriend tries to hurt him with shallow pop psychology insults and he mocks her so slyly and satisfyingly that I cheered. Every page contains multiple out loud laughs.

It's a difficult book to describe but an easy one to read and enjoy.
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Format: Hardcover
I thought this book was ridiculously funny. Originally, I only bought this because Max Barry said to (I'm a sucker for a great marketing scheme), but I have been euphoric to find that this was a smart and funny story that had me crying from laughing so hard. Quite possibly one of the funniest books I have read today.
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Format: Hardcover
... in the best way possible.

I compulsively read sections of it out loud to anyone who will listen.

I also highly encouraged a crowded room of librarians to buy it and read it out loud to their patrons.
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Format: Hardcover
I love it when something amazing is not critically acclaimed and essentially ignored. Doesn't it seep credibility? I've read others' reviews of this and I am wondering why no one has hit on the obvious: this is our generation's foul-mouthed Holden Caulfield.

Oh my goodness the story is not perfect- duh - it's not supposed to be. We don't get completely developed characters -duh - we are not supposed to. We don't know why Shane has hit this point in his life- get real...we aren't supposed to. What happened to symbolism and thought and stretching our minds? We are supposed to absorb the prose and imagine and work through and enjoy this.

Wow- when was the last time we read something, not for the story, but just for the words? Not to skim for the action but to sip on each sentence like a fine wine? No, not Salinger but maybe Salinger mixed with a bit of ourselves.

Critics go back to your bestsellers---I prefer something that makes me think AND laugh.
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Format: Hardcover
The promo tag on the jacket is eerily accurate--if you like Office Space, Bukowski, or A Confederacy of Dunces, you'll probably enjoy this. The book is totally reliant on the poisonously funny black humor of the narrator, but that's okay. It's not a long enough book to need more than one brilliant element. And hey, it's a first novel. I can't wait for another one.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am of two minds on this book. The dark and edgy part of it was just OK for me. A lot of it reminded me of Choke by Chuck Palahnuik, a book I loved, however, those parts in this book didn't really work for me.

However, the parts in this book that are funny are really THAT funny and worth both the read and the cover price. The birthday scene was absolutely hilarious. I can't wait to share that part with others.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like others here, I think several parts of the book are read-aloud funny. The funny parts, however, are towards the beginning where we are getting accustomed to Shane's take on life and people. As the book progresses, what makes Shane's inner dialogue funny ends up making it sad and kind of pathetic. The murder mystery driving most of the book was wrapped up in two pages and seriously, what was the deal with the salt shakers? I kept expecting some explanation for his compulsion, some glowing revelation, but none came.

I'd really give this book 3.5 stars. Three isn't giving it enough credit, while four is too much. I really enjoyed the book overall, especially the first half, and I think it is a great debut. I will definitely pick up the author's next book based on this one and I recommend it to anyone that, like the jacket says, liked Office Space.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you're easily offended, this book is not for you. However, to everyone else, this book is a riot. I couldn't help myself from laughing on my flight as Neilan had his protagonist describe his experience at a deaf party. The narrative may not be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but Neilan has a distinct voice when he writes, and that voice is hilarious.

Eventually, the books turns into an apathetic Noir-style story, which is even more enjoyable than the first hundred pages or so.

If you're a fan of the brash writing of Chuck Palahniuk or the witty style of David Sedaris, this book is probably right up your alley.
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