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The Fuck-Up

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  9,634 Ratings  ·  397 Reviews
Arthur Nersesian's underground literary treasure is an unforgettable slice of gritty New York City life.

This is the darkly hilarious odyssey of an anonymous slacker. He's a perennial couch-surfer, an aspiring writer searching for himself in spite of himself, and he's just trying to survive. But life has other things in store for the fuck-up. From being dumped by his girlfr
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 1st 1999 by MTV Books (first published 1997)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Mar 21, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: nincompoops of the basest degree
Recommended to Chris by: a leg-humping dog
Having read “Story of the Eye”, “A History of Orgies”, and “Crash” within the last month, I was determined to give up reading and write a story of my own, inspired by the filthy aforementioned tales, which I tentatively titled “Whores On All Fours”. The idea was to chronicle my own licentious tales of bizarre and incredible sexual triumphs, but when discovering I only had two pages worth of material (with one encounter being recollected thrice within) I quickly abandoned this doomed attempt. I g ...more
D.R. Haney
Jan 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
I knew someone who had a first-edition copy of this book, and when I asked him about it, he said it wasn't any good. I took him at his word. Even so, for years I wondered why Johnny Temple had republished the book at Akashic. Finally, I decided to read the bloody thing.

Well, it reads fast, and it's funny, though not laugh-out-loud funny, not for me at least, and it brought back memories, since I lived on the Lower East Side of NYC in the early eighties, as the unnamed narrator keeps referring to
I'm going through a relationship crisis right now, and for some twisted reason I felt that reading and carrying this book around would be like a little act of rebellion - would let me "own" my own fucked-up-edness. I'm glad I did, because, even though I've only read the first chapter, it made me laugh, which I thought would be impossible right now. It evokes a time and a kind of place I remember. The first chapter takes place often in a dingy second-run movie house; I frequented those a lot duri ...more
May 19, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I liked the first three quarters of this book a lot. It was kind of like a punk/new wave Candide set in early 80s New York. It also reminded me a lot of Walker Percy's novel The Moviegoer, which I enjoyed. The narrator, for whom the novel is clearly named, makes a series of bad decisions which invariably yield temporary benefits before leaving him worse off than before. The fun is knowing that every one of his naive and dishonest schemes will fail. I guess it's sort of dramatic irony, but the re ...more
Sort of an interesting look at how someone fairly stable could wind up homeless. I liked it at the start, but I found it on the whole to be horribly erratic, with some smallish moments gone over in intense detail and much more important sections just completely glossed over. Also the ending was just ridiculously not believable; it felt like he just woke up one morning and said, "Hmm, I'm tired of writing this book, soooo guess I'll just end it here." Very disappointing.
Jan 03, 2009 rated it did not like it
crap. no continuity. the guy didn't even know what he was talking about. even mildly homophobic and offensive, and not in a good way.
god. i should have known better... i mean MTV books? oops.
Peter Panic
Jul 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
To pick up a book and realize that you're currently living in that situation doesn't make the book more interesting. In fact it's like looking into a crystal ball of failure and of lost hope. Granted I'm not as fucked up as the main character, but I'm sure as hell not that far removed from his life. Unfortunately his life/my life is an exact replica of me being 24, except I live in a bigger city now. BUt alas those are my own issues, not goodreads...

Even though I finished reading the book almost
joshua toro
Jan 10, 2009 rated it it was ok
eh. he's a fuck up. he fuck's up. he tries t not fuck up, fails, and fucks up again.
Apr 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014, usa
It's a book that should be revisited (if it was ever visited). My friends that want to be writers all live in New York, and this is a book about what happens when you go to New York to be a writer. While a lot of the events fit snuggly within the dream of big city life and Bukowski-from the gutter failure-cum-success, it's a a believable story of failure. It is also the story of a generation without opportunity to realize lofty dreams created by a lavish adolescence. Published in the early-90s, ...more
Luke Padgett
Aug 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: in-the-library
I got kicked out of the public library for laughing out loud at this book, which may be a better story than the book itself. I happened to read this book at a time in my life where I could relate to the main character so I ended up enjoying the book immensely. Still, the librarian seemed to take offense that not only was I laughing at a book aloud, but the book had a curse word in the title. Fuck her. I thought it was funny.
Apr 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-90s
I read this in one sitting and didn’t get bored, only stopped to go to the bathroom and make a snack, which is saying an awful lot for me, especially lately. It was funny, moving, sad, interesting, weird, heartbreaking, and sweet. The main character isn’t perfect by any stretch and does some fucked-up things (obviously, hence the title), but it’s hard not to root for him, especially in the end when he’s such a fucking ridiculous mess.
May 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I would highly reccomend this book to anyone with balls enough to explore a world completely unlike his own. This book follows one 20 something's unambitious but not exactly apathetic foray through his NYC life. He fails at relationships, keeping a job, keeping a roof over his head and via all three and a suicide learns the only lesson there is to learn from life, namely, how to learn contentment even when things aren't awesome.

Excellent, real, gritty prose. A shorter more approachable "Infinit
Mar 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
For me, this book, the feelings that it conjured, and my overall thoughts about it, can be summed up in a single quote, "As the components of your life are stripped away, after all of the a,bit ions and hopes vaporize, you reach self-reflective starkness--the repetitious plucking of a single overwound string."

A dark, comedic journey that left me feeling as though I wasn't alone in the world. And for that, I am thankful.

4 out of 5 stars.
Aug 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Nersesian does a great job of keeping the reader concerned even though the main character isn't particularly likeable. Really, he's kind of a schmuck. Still, I was concerned about what was going to happen to him. And so many things do. Wildly improbably, the events are still believable. Vividly described as well. The result is a very entertaining novel.
Aug 10, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: for-hipsters, po-mo
I hope Nersesian didn't win an award for this book because to be honest, I can't be bothered to check his profile page. Thanks to the mediocrity of The Fuck-Up, however, now I can enjoy whatever I plan on reading next, even if it's a Meg Cabot.
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The book starts off hilarious. The scenarios the narrator gets himself into are so ridiculous (getting dumped by both his girlfriend and the woman he's trying to sleep with, losing his job, pretending to be gay to get a job at a porno theatre) you can't help but laugh. But somewhere around halfway through the book, it gets dark. And then really sad. Despite being a perennial fuck up, you're rooting so hard for this guy and just want him to get it together. I don't know if Nersesian intended for ...more
Mar 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
I was going to give this book three stars but I think the two star's "it was ok" is a better description. This book is not a total waste of time. I would just describe it as something you shouldn't prioritize to read.

Mostly it has to do with the audience it targets. I'm 20 and I think I'm well within the target audience. And I get it. The story is about a nameless narrator who, while smart and well-read is a bit of a slacker. There is little that motivates him beyond his mentor, Helmsley and the
Sep 20, 2010 rated it liked it
One time while I was visiting San Francisco I came across an anarchist bookstore, and because the concept of such a place was so fascinating I just had to check it out. Inside i found this book sitting there, and was totally captured by the title. I admit it, the F bomb caught my attention. It was ballsy, catchy and sounded like it might be a good story.

A couple years later and here i am, slightly disappointed. It's not a disaster, but I found a lot of it to come off as gimmicky, and some of it
Hannah Garden
Jul 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Oh man! I remember finding this on the shelf in the St. Augustine Barnes & Noble when I was twenty and being like Whoah that says FUCK right on the cover, and buying it and reading it and liking it kind of pretty okay but NOW I live in New York and I see Arthur Nersesian all over the place and the other day he came by and was like "Hey someone just gave me a copy of my book, want it?" and signed it all nice and so I went home and read it yesterday and oh man! Isn't that a sweet little story? ...more
Jinny Chung
Mar 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
"You know you've been in a place too long when every other locale serves as a reference for some sad recollection."

"I was moving away from myself; silly ideas and images moved their way across the desert of my mind. I no longer had control; all I could do was watch them and react; sometimes I'd laugh, sometimes I'd cry. The great caravan of thoughts passed more and more rarely until soon there was just the great desert: tabula rasa."

Funny! --But somehow also deeply profound.

This little bugger is
Mickey Wozny
Sep 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
The book with the greatest verismilitude to my life that I've read. Kind of makes me wonder how unique my experience in life is. Of course their is less sadness and debt in this book than in my life. I'm not sure if that makes my life any the more unique. In short, this is the type of book that makes you laugh where you should cry. Unabashedly inappropriate and all the more enjoyable because of it.
Jonathan Sparkles
Jul 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A modern day masterpiece. Classic literature with late 20th century flair. Never a dull moment. Flawless storytelling. A non-stop adventure full of a few ups and a lot of downs. The uneasy yet often fulfilling life of a homeless romantic is on display here and I had a hard time putting the book down. It left me completely satisfied, but also wanting more, which of course means it was the perfect length. Highly recommended for fans of top shelf writing and never giving up.
Jul 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Set mostly in lower Manhattan in the 1980's, this is Nersesian's first published book and is very atmospheric, moving & personal. The plots and anti-social situations make the book a fevered read. Also recommend "Chinese Take Out" which is mostly set in the East Village and by the same author.
Sep 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This was an interesting book, by a guy I'd never heard of...Reminds me of on the road in New York.
Jul 16, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Unimpressive. Although the story is engrossing, Nersesian's prose style is forced--it seems to me as though he were trying too hard to produce a hybrid of Trainspotting and The Catcher in the Rye.
Apr 01, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: people who like the read the word FUCK
I bought this book at a Park Slope stoop sale for 50 cents because it had the word FUCK on it. The book was a bore. The outside of the book is more interesting than the inside. Boo
Alissa Shaw
Jun 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
Depressing but good.
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: winter-16
I thought this book was hilarious, twisted, a bit surreal, and completely engrossing. The narrator is a generally terrible person, but I found it difficult to actually hate him (and he gets his comeuppance, which is simultaneously pitiful and hilarious). Despite the obvious hyperbole of fiction, the thing I liked about this book is that it traces the trajectory a life can quite plausibly take, especially among the faceless masses of a huge city. Maybe I liked this book so much because I've known ...more
Mar 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone age 17-37, anyone just out of college, fuck-ups
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Isabell Hope
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Black Humor and B...: First Book 1 6 Apr 14, 2014 12:06PM  
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Arthur Nersesian is the author of eight novels, including The Fuck-Up (Akashic, 1997 & MTV Books/Simon & Schuster, 1999), Chinese Takeout (HarperCollins), Manhattan Loverboy (Akashic), Suicide Casanova (Akashic), dogrun (MTV Books/Simon & Schuster), and Unlubricated (HarperCollins). He is also the author of East Village Tetralogy, a collection of four plays. He lives in New York City.

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“As the components of your life are stripped away, after all the ambitions and hopes vaporize, you reach a self-reflective starkness-- the repetitious plucking of a single overwound string.” 7 likes
“Perhaps the price of comfort is that life passes more rapidly. But for anyone who has lived in uneasiness, even for a short, memorable duration, it's a trade-off that will gladly be made.” 5 likes
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