- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition (1st printing) edition (May 2, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312351747
- ISBN-13: 978-0312351748
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 7.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 236 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #401,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Apathy and Other Small Victories Hardcover – May 2, 2006
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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.
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
Top customer reviews
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I really enjoyed this book, and I was able to relate a lot to the way the protagonist (also the narrator) sees the world. Before I buy a book, I usually go to the first page read the first paragraph to see how strongly the author begins the book. I read three sentences of this book's opening paragraph and was instantly sold.
This technique of pre-review usually serves me well, but it can be hit-and-miss at times, with books starting strong and interesting but ultimately tapering out into tediously boring filler with a disappointing ending. This book, however, made me laugh consistently throughout my entire read, with virtually every single paragraph ending in a way that made me laugh out loud.
The only reason it's not a perfect 5/5 for me is because the ending, though satisfying, felt slightly rushed. The main character develops well throughout the novel, but the other characters felt one-dimensional at times.
I don't want to spoil the plot, so I'll just say themes in this book include murder, theft, alcohol abuse, sexual perversion, and toilet naps.
The main charater Shane (we never learn his last name and it does not matter) is a drifter who cares about nothing other than his own amusement, ususally at the expense of other peoples physical and mental misfortunes. He spends most of his days drinking pitchers of Miller High Life at a bar he never cared to learn the name of. He has an affinity for stealing salt shakers and seemingly has his apatment filled with them as well as spilled salt as he usually passes out drunk in bed with them. Two detectives startle him awake one morning and he finds himself as the prime suspect in a murder investigation involving the death of his deaf friend/dental assistant Marlene. There are a a few well crafted friendships/relationships throughout the book including Mobo (his upstairs neighbor/total creep),Bryce (his landlord) Bryce's wife (his lover), Doug (his accident prone/mental traiwreck dentist). For me, the most entertaining of all is the relationship with his girlfriend Gwen who helps get him a job at Panopticon Insurance as a temp. Gwen is as annoying as any post college, career minded, twenty something you've ever met. She has her life, personal and professional, mapped to the tee and Shane clearly despises her throughout but he's a sucker for the brutal beatings she provides in the sack. Shane's tenure at Panopticon is relatable to anyone who works in a building with 50+ people and his time there provides many of the laugh out loud moments I referred to earlier.
The plot of this book is a bit thin but just tight enough to keep you interested throughout. It's a short read (which i like). I would guess around 250 pages but I read the Kindle edition. If not for a few moments where I actually thought Neilan tryed a bit too hard to be funny I would have given this book a five star rating. As others have stated, he may be too clever to get out of his own way.
Took me a couple of chapters to get into the book - I pushed on at the recomendation of a friend.
I like the book - the lead character's interaction with the world at large can be frustrating and amusing - I caught myself laughing out loud at parts.
It does try too hard in parts - there are sections where the humour is flat - and when it does miss the mark it does drone on a bit.
So, not in my top 10 (and I have many books in my top 10) - but a quick easy read - almost a bathroom book. I do not feel like I have wasted my time - hours of my life I won't get back - by reading this.
A twisted sense of humor is a must to thoroughly enjoy this book, but I've recommended it to people I considered as white-bread as they come and even they admitted to tearing up from laughing so hard. The language can be a little rough, but most comedy has that issue, so if you can let that slide then you'll be in for one enjoyable book. Who knew apathy could be so damn amusing?