The only thing Shane cares about is leaving. Usually on a Greyhound bus, right before his life falls apart again. Just like he planned. But this time it's complicated: there's a sadistic corporate climber who thinks she's his girlfriend, a rent-subsidized affair with his landlord's wife, and the bizarrely appealing deaf assistant to Shane's cosmically unstable dentist.
When one of the women is murdered, and Shane is the only suspect who doesn't care enough to act like he didn't do it, the question becomes just how he'll clear the good name he never had and doesn't particularly want: his own.
This is the kind of book for people who like their humor like they like their coffee: black with just a twinge of a bitter aftertaste. In fact, the story that's being told here has a lot in common with caffeine: you suspect that it's not really good for you, but it provides you with a satisfying fix. In this case, the "fix" is a good dose of schadenfreude, or maybe just the vicarious satisfaction of observing other people behaving badly. Basically Apathy is a jaunt through total nihilism. The plot follows a loser who by doing absolutely nothing productive to advance his own situation in life, somehow ends up extricated in a very bizarre chain of events involving several affairs and a murder investigation. There isn't a single really sympathetic character in the whole lot, and yet as a train wreck it's quite the page turner. To say the conclusion was a bit too tidy is an understatement considering the extent of what goes down, but overall it was entertaining in a warped sort of way. I have a feeling Family Guy fans would probably enjoy this book because my reaction to so many of the situations and conversations in the book is pretty much like the typical reaction to that show: about a 50/50 mix of indignation and amusement. Don't say that I didn't warn you.
This book, so far, is so damn funny I was actually roaring with laughter. To be sure, it's not the most politically correct humor, but it really is terribly funny. I'm not even sure I'm through the first chapter and I kept having to put the book down and laugh and wipe my eyes. It's the kind of read that you wish someone was there with you so you could read it out loud to them and make them laugh, too. It's the kind of funny that when you're TRYING to read it out loud you almost can't, because you're choking with laughter. Seriously, seriously hilarious. Dark! But funny, funny stuff. Many thumbs up.
Well. I must admit … I have felt rather apathetic about writing this review. I know, I know, obvious joke. But the odd thing is, it’s true. And it’s not that I didn’t enjoy Apathy. I certainly did. Despite the fact that it’s one of the worst book titles I’ve ever read. Is the sequel going to be called Meh? Followed up by Not So Much and Whatevs?
The story itself is a twisted version of Office Space. The main character, Shane, is a slacker who lands a temp job he doesn’t want at the insurance company where his abusive girlfriend works. Of course, he never actually tells her that she’s abusive. That would take too much effort. Instead, he allows her to beat the crap out of him during sex. He has an odd friendship with his deaf dental hygienist and sleeps with his landlord’s wife once a week. By request. Of the landlord. It’s complicated. And then shit happens.
As you might guess, the main character lives a life of apathy. Or, more accurately, jaded detachment. With the exception of his seemingly sincere friendship with his deaf hygienist—despite the fact that he makes fun of her behind her back—whom he seems to really like. At points, Shane teeters on opening up to someone about himself. To admit he has feelings. Under the surface, he seems to care. But he never takes it further than a brief internal debate. He can’t seem to figure out how to express himself directly. He doesn’t have the guts to show his feelings. Instead he deflects emotions with mocking humor directed at everything and everyone around him. Most of whom are set up by Neilan as deserving to be skewered. It’s rather like how in movies, even if the hero (or anti-hero) has to kill many people to achieve his goal, they are usually set up as “bad people” in some fashion so you don’t hate the hero. So every institution and individual Shane rips into pretty much deserves it and that leaves Shane mostly sympathetic. Except for his general inertia, of course.
Beyond the title, Apathy left me feeling undecided. Ironic, no? Some elements I quite enjoyed. The main character was often hilarious but with a cynical, ironic tone that kept him at a distance. He was generally well intentioned but also an obnoxious asshole. I must call out specifically that I hated his casual use of the word “retarded.” (I do feel its okay to hate a character’s attributes even if it’s hard to tell if the author is neutral or critical. Since people are often unlikable, I prefer an author be honest than sugar coat humanity.) The book had great energy throughout but the ending fizzled. The plot was rather intriguing but also far-fetched, and I felt the whole “there’s been a murder” bit too easy. (Not a spoiler, it’s on the back cover.)
So you can see, all my reactions are Yes, but, Yes, but. Not a good technique for improv. It’s that pull and push that left me non-plussed. I am glad that I read Apathy. I’m going to call it a 3.5 with solid entertainment value and smatterings of cultural critique that resonated positively.
I started reading this book when a 16 year-old student gave it to me. I didn’t get past page 2 until summer, though I liked it a lot. Once summer hit, I read 50 pages in one sitting and laughed convulsively the whole way through. After another 50, I decided to set it aside for my trip to the beach next week because I wanted something really good to read. It’s the hysterical 1st person narrative of a really messed up apathetic twenty something whose bizarre sense of humor and way of looking at things more closely resembles mine than anyone (real or fictional) I’ve ever known. It’s very offensive to just about everyone, and I do not recommend it unless you really want to howl spasmodically at the insane human experience. Lots of obscure pop culture references from the 80’s onward, and the strong message that it’s okay to laugh at how worthless and counterproductive some of us were or are at a certain age. But be warned, even the author hopes his parents never read it, as he dedicates it to them. I’d be embarrassed if you told anyone I recommended it. Don’t read it, even if it’s the best thing I’ve read in a very long time.
Apathy and Other Small Victories follows Shane, an aimless twenty eight year old wanderer. When he’s not in bed with his landlord’s wife, he spends his time sleeping in the handicap stall of the insurance company he’s temping for. Well, that and stealing salt shakers from diners.
Shane gets caught up in a murder investigation following the death of a friend - a deaf dental assistant named Marlene. Shane seems to know more than he’s letting on to the police, can he escape arrest or does he even care?
Before I get to the review, allow me to be a tad self-indulgent like those folks that post their life story before they give you a recipe online.
Back in 2008, I wasn’t what you would call a “Constant Reader”. Up to that point in my life, my reading experience consisted of assigned reading in high school, the odd wrestling biography/memoir and a handful of Chuck Palahniuk books. A friend of mine directed me to The Cult, a fansite for Chuck that opened the door to books by authors with a similar style as well as books that Chuck personally recommended. If I recall correctly, this was how I came to read House of Leaves, The Raw Shark Texts and this book, Apathy and Other Small Victories.
Those three books helped to light a fire in me, so to speak. They showed me that reading wasn’t just “work” (although, some books can still feel that way) and that it could be an enjoyable way to pass the time. So, if anything, I consider Paul Neilan’s lone novel a building block that would form the foundation of all that was to follow.
That being said, I didn’t enjoy Apathy and Small Victories as much as I did the first go around.
Don’t get me wrong, this was a fun read for the most part. The crime aspect is pretty solid and there are still plenty of laugh out loud jokes and scenes. I will say that Neilan’s take down of office life is chillingly accurate. I’ve definitely worked in one or two offices similar to what Shane describes. However, I felt like he wouldn’t leave it alone after a while. Yes, I get how soul-crushing it can be to work in an office like that, but I’m not interested in reading about how much it sucks over and over and over again as it becomes less of a story and more of a platform to regurgitate some sort of deep-seated hatred of office life.
When I finished this last night, I was trying to figure out what about it spoke to me when I first read it eleven years ago. I mean, no one in this book is likeable. The plot, while memorable, really isn’t anything special. Then I thought, maybe it was more of a shock to my system. Prior to this book, I hadn’t read a true comedic novel before and I suppose the novelty of this must have blown my mind. It was like a more nihilistic Office Space. For years, I’ve held this up in my head as one of the better books I had ever read and since that initial read, I’ve been clamoring for a follow-up. Now that I’ve revisited it, I don’t think I will be any longer.
Another reread here. Apathy is quite possibly the funniest book I've ever read. I highly recommend it to anyone with a sense of humor. The unlikely hero of the novel becomes unwittingly involved in a murder investigation as it's prime suspect.
Stolen salt shakers, deaf folk karaoke and hours in a bathroom stall...if only life were this much fun.
WARNING: People do tend to look at you funny when you bust out laughing reading this book.
I'm finding it increasingly difficult to find novels targeted at cynical twentysomething males, so I had high hopes for Neilan's first book. The plot is difficult to explain, but Neilan's site sums it up better than I could:
"It's about one man's desperate fight to assign absolutely no meaning to modern life. It's also about sleeping in the bathroom at work, getting framed for a deaf lady's murder, and how it feels to get beat up by a girl."
The narrative was a little forced, but there were four or five passages discussing cubicles and forced corporate teambuilding activities that made me cry because I was laughing so hard. This is embarrassing enough when you're by yourself; but in an almost empty depressing diner off a country road, it's downright humiliating. But it was the kind of humiliation that is good for the soul.
If you're interested in his commentary on office culture, but don't want to read the entire book, message me and I can send you my Kindle Highlights.
This book seals the deal - I'm officially a sucker for a nihilistic, possibly sociopathic, gross, unlikable anti-heroes. Like other reviews say, this book is funny. But it's more than that; it's funny in a satirical, observant, fatalistic, life-is-shit sort of way. If you like this kind of funny this book will be shelved right in the center of your wheelhouse. I'm now joining the many calling for the re-appearance of Paul Neilan. Come back to us! The world needs you.
This book in one word? Hilarious. I was hooked from the first paragraph when Shane, the first person narrator, talks about stealing salt shakers and waking up in bed covered in salt. Every page made me smile, snort, chortle, giggle, cackle and, on more than a few occasions, lose control of my breathing.
For someone so indifferent, Shane paints a vivid and all too accurate picture of the world and people around him. He doesn’t judge positively or negatively (much), he simply observes.
I genuinely loved every character. Or at least i loved them through Shane’s detached point of view. I particularly liked his relationship (or lack thereof) with his landlords’s wife, whose name we never learn, because Shane really doesn’t care (he does love her, though—because she doesn���t care).
The people and the situations are 100% ridiculous, but the thought processes and delivery from Shane are perfection. If i ever need a quick gigglesnort in the future, this will be the book to pick up and randomly read a few paragraphs of.
Incredibly funny, there were times that my wife would stop and roll her eyes at my laughing at this stupid book. I think I should probably add that I have had a few too many beers while writing this review, so I might make it sound like it's the the best novel I have ever read. The main character, Shane, is very likable, the interaction with him, and every character seem so real, and natural. True dialogue, and thought behind the dialogue. If you're a visual reader like myself, expect about 5 one hour sessions, if you're a text reader, expect an afternoon. The paperback is only 231 pages. Call me a slow reader if you like, I get my moneys worth. I've now decided to keep this review short and sweet. There were times that I thought I wrote the novel only to entertain myself. If you aren't into some 80's pop culture tossed in with sarcastic comedy (which is next to impossible in a text form) then this is not the book for you, if so, strap on the seat belt for a well written comedy with a feel good ending.
I will be upfront: I hated this book like I haven't hated a book in a really long time. Do not read the rest of this unless you feel like reading a lot of complaining.
This is the story of Shane. He goes to the dentist a lot. He hates his corporate job. He drinks and steals salt shakers. He is accused of a murder. The end.
How did the preceding really pass for a plot when the publisher read this book? Honestly, NOTHING ELSE HAPPENS. The most interesting element of this novel was the murder investigation, and it was literally set up a bit in the beginning and then a solution was tacked onto the end.
I think it is because this book is billed as being "funny" people will excuse its thin and pointless plot line. Unfortunately for me then, I did not find it funny. Well, ok, a few lines made me chuckle. The rest? Tired. Boring. Making fun of people that take their nine to five cubicle jobs too seriously? Been done. Too many times to list all the examples, actually. And honestly, it was preachy. Ok, yes, we get it: this is no way to live a life, blah blah blah you are sooooooooo superior. SPARE ME.
His drinking and disappointing sex with other women? Been done too. Which I wouldn't have a problem with either, if he put an interesting spin on it, which he does not. I think the author was actually adding in some of these things to give Shane even an ounce of identification for the common person, which I believe also felt tacked on as an afterthought. Are we suppose to pity Shane? I think the author would say yes, but the novel is from his first person perspective and the other characters are so flat, the reader is given no other choice but to view him as the hero of this story. After all, he's the only character things really work out for in the end.
This book was smug. It wants me to feel like an idiot for taking it seriously, just like every other character who gave a shit about something was show to look. I mean, for christ's sake, it's called Apathy, right? What's MY problem?
Well "Apathy" for a book about not giving a shit, I think you tried way too hard. Thanks for wasting my time.
When I first saw Apathy and Other Small Victories I was drawn in by the cover, sparked by further interest I decided to go ahead and read the first couple of pages. Immediately, I was confused. The book starts off rather abruptly and most of the book continues along the same path. Which would usually make me set the book back down and carry on with my life, but I couldn't help but wonder what it was the author was trying to tell me. What was going on? Why was some man, Shane, being awoken to cops standing over him and why was he covered in salt? Usually, I tend to favor books that are fiction, however, this book is a narration of Shane's ,who is quite sarcastic, further complicating life. It's a relatively short book and only gives you a short portion of Shane's ,life, however, by the end of the book you are left feeling you truly know Shane. This book contains a ton of plot twists, but if you stick with it you will be pleased. The author did a great job of keeping me laughing, yet he wrote a story that I was sad to see end.
Δεν έβρισκα σημείο να ταυτιστώ παρά μόνο στα αποσπάσματα με τον οδοντίατρο στον οποίο ο ήρωας ήταν συχνός εισκέπτης. Ο Shane είναι κυνικός, άξεστος, κάνει χοντροκομμένα αστεία, μπαινοβγαίνει στα μπαρς, πίνει, κάνει σεξ και σιχαίνεται τη δουλειά του, ένας μίζερος άνθρωπος δηλαδή, μέχρι τη στιγμή που θεωρείται ύποπτος για ένα φόνο. Ποιο φόνο μη ρωτήσετε διότι υπάρχει ελάχιστη αναφορά σε αυτόν, λίγο στο ξεκίνημα της ιστορίας και λίγο στο τέλος όπου έχουμε και την αποκάλυψη του δολοφόνου. Το ανθρωπάκι στο εξώφυλλο ήμουν εγώ που ήθελα να τινάξω τα μυαλά μου στον αέρα όσο διάβαζα αυτό το βιβλίο που δεν είχε καμία ουσιαστική πλοκή και κάτι να μου κρατά το ενδιαφέρον. Αστεράκια δύο διότι πρώτον σε μερικά αστεία χαμογέλασα και δεύτερον επειδή ένα αστεράκι θα έπαιρνε μόνο το βιβλίο που θα ήταν τόσο θλιβερό ώστε να το εγκαταλείψω στη μέση.
I saw this one on the shelf at a place I was staying for a week, and decided to give it a try. It was time that would probably have been better spent reading The Gun Seller, or Flashman, or any of the other books I'd brought with me.
I wasn't really expecting anything (I really mean that; I wasn't expecting it to be good or bad. I was devoid of expectations). It started off okay, with the 'protagonist' Shane lying in bed with a bunch of salt shakers (Shane's habit of stealing salt shakers, which he does only once or twice throughout the book, was one of the only parts of the story I liked). But from there it falls into a cycle of: Shane does nothing, Shane makes some mildly droll/highly cynical observances, Shane does nothing, weird character shows up, Shane does nothing. There's a murder mystery I couldn't really bring myself to care about, too.
And I really didn't care; about the characters, the 'story', or (especially) Shane. That might have been the 'point,' but I can only tolerate a despicable main character if the writing is good enough: see Flashman. Contrary to the blurb on the back of the book which declares Neilan's wit to be a "razor that cuts and slashes mercilessly on every page", I thought it was more like a dull vegetable peeler, and about as amusing. There were some funny parts, like the dead fish sex metaphors (maybe they were similes, I can't remember), and Mobo's faux-Spanish terms of address, but on the whole, this "weirdly hilarious" story just sort of flopped about lamely. It wasn't tragically hilarious at all, which I think is what it was going for; it was just boring and depressing.
If you don't love this book, don't worry; there's nothing wrong with you, as another back-cover blurb states (or maybe there is, but your not loving this book doesn't have anything to do with it). If your idea of wit is Wodehouse and Waugh, prepare to be disappointed.
Like the literary equivalent of a Reddit comment thread: occasionally clever, periodically amusing, but mostly just awful and terrible and offensive (and not even cleverly offensive).
Literary characters don't have to be likeable or noble to be effective, but the sense here throughout is of an author not-so-slyly, winkingly condoning (even endorsing) the shittiness of his protagonist, all with a smirk and a "well, aren't I just a lil' stinker" sort of turn to his face.
This book was hilarious but I think that since my mom and sister both told me some of the funniest parts before I even read it, it kind of ruined it. So thanks guys :) I would definitely recommend it to anyone who has a sense of humor because if you didn't have one, you might think it was kind of weird.
This is for those with a crude sense of humour, and politicly incorrect. I found myself laughing out loud from start to finish. Shane, a 28 year old oddball cares for nothing and no one! For a man self proclaiming Apathy he sure does tend to overthink every little thing that happens to him. He is arrogant toward everyone and everything around him, he just wants to get by unnoticed and do as little as possible in everyday life. Shane finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation, in which his carefree ways don't help at all in his innocence. A hilarious adventure of a guy who just doesn't give a f*ck.
This was one of the first books Goodreads ever recommended to me, using whatever algorithm exists to pair your past rankings with future titles, which made it that much more disappointing to find I didn't really like it. Didn't dislike it either. Just didn't think it was anything particularly novel or captivating. Our narrator tells us, "I have always been vaguely and uselessly talented." The same could be said of this endeavor: it's vaguely OK, technically proficient and certainly not without some merits. But spending time on it is overall underwhelming.
This was one of the worst books I have ever read in my life. I'd rather read all the Twilight books twice AND see all the movies before ever reading this again one time. The figure on the cover holding a gun to his head? That's how I felt the whole time I was reading this book full of rhino diarrhea.
I was stealing salt shakers again. Ten, sometimes twelve a night, shoving them up my sleeves, smuggling them out of bars and diners and anywhere else I could find them. In the morning, wherever I woke up, I was always covered in salt. I was cured meat. I had become beef jerky. Even as a small child, I knew it would one day come to this.
I'm just not sure...and neither is the author. Look, this book has some funny moments even some laugh out loud moments, but it does not go anywhere near that which it is trying to reach. Looking past apathy and teetering on nihilism and then contradicting itself by showing the "protagonist" actually caring...it is muddy and lacks substance. It seemed like the author was simply trying to create a compendium of memorable lines without anything to really tie them together so he wrote a "story" and gave us a "narrator" to recite them. We have seen the story of the modern day slacker. This has been done before and this type of character has been fleshed out by far better writers (Palahniuk as noted by one very astute reviewer). I just don't get all of the positive reviews. This is decent brain-fluff when it could have been so much more, but in the hands of this author, well...not so much. Deliberate misleads, awkward sense of sexual self, filling the void, blah. A little dash of "Gen X" will do ya'. I give it 2.5-3 stars because it was a fast read and did not take up too much of my time as well as having a few funny moments, but note they are all formula and there is really nothing organic about this. Where is the flow? Where is the novelty? The apathy comes in my review. This book has little to care about.
Hmm. I hope this author doesn't continue this theme and write a book called Boredom... The guy working the Phoenix airport Borders was pretty convinced that this book was Pure Genius and that I would love it. How Wrong He Was.
I kept hoping the main character would get hit by a truck or something. That wouldn't be "apathy" though would it? The sign language bit was a nice touch but not quite enough to jolt me into enjoying this.
A book like this rises or falls on how well its humor meshes with the sensibilities of its reader.
For me, the mesh was imperfect.
Take this early example:
"Hi, I'm Gwendolyn." ... "Hello, Gwendolyn." ... "Please, call me Gwen. Only my grandmother calls me Gwendolyn." Then why the f-ck did you introduce yourself as Gwendolyn, I wanted to ask, but that was way too many words in a row. "Yeah," I said instead.
If you thought the funniest part of this exchange was "Please, call me Gwen. Only my grandmother calls me Gwendolyn," then this book is probably not for you. This kind of subtler joke makes up maybe 10% of the humor in the book.
If you thought the funniest part of this exchange was "that was way too many words in a row. "Yeah," I said instead.," then this book has a modest chance of appealing to you. Another 10% of the book's jokiness revolves around self-deprecatory or drunken humor.
If you thought the funniest part of this exchange was "Then why the f-ck did you introduce yourself as Gwendolyn," then you'll most likely find the book a riot. Perhaps 80% of the book's humor is mean-spirited, highly set-up, or punctuated with words like f-ck on the apparent theory that such words are inherently funny.
Or how about this one: "Doug's strawberry blond hair hung down in limp curls that always looked like they were wet, like he was an out of work Hasidic Jew who didn't give a sh-t anymore."
If you can't think of anything funnier that could have finished this simile, then this book may very well be for you. If you find this sentence peters into blah, then be aware that you'll be reading hundreds more just like it.
I didn't find the book particularly obscene. More like preposterous. It's no coarser than Sarah Silverman or many shock jocks. But, unlike Silverman, only 10% of the humor rang through for me.
“The world is your oyster, but you are allergic to shellfish.”
If a poor imitation of Chuck Palahniuk tried to write The Catcher in the Rye, you'd have Apathy.
I can only imagine that Neilan thinks his writing is funny and clever (spoiler - it's not) and that his characters are quirky and interesting (spoiler - they're not). He seems like the type of guy that if I told him this to his face, he'd tell me that I "just don't get his writing." Mmmkay.
I'd go over the plot, but I don't want to bore myself by remembering it in too much detail. There's this POS named Shane who drinks pitchers of Miller High Life during the day, steals salt shakers from bars, somehow manages to get not one but TWO women to sleep with him on a regular basis (what?), and is accused of murdering a deaf dental hygienist. He spends the book bumbling around, half-assedly trying to prove his innocence... although he was blackout drunk at the time of the death anyway, so he's not 100% sure he's innocent. The whole thing is wrapped up in waaay to convenient of an ending that makes you think "that's it?" But then you remember how bad the book is, and you're glad it's over.
I wasted far too many hours of my life reading this book, and I've just wasted far too many more minutes recounting it in this review. So I'm going to quit now in an attempt to regain some of my dignity.
Apathy and Other Small Victories is a story about a hopelessly apathetic, salt-stealing man caught up in a murder investigation of a deaf friend. His disposition often threatens his existence, yet it takes more than the loss of a job and two accusing detectives to concern Shane. The premise, to me, seemed interesting enough for a quick read, but the book itself only managed to achieve some small victories with my interest.
There are some funny moments, moments of absurdity and darkness that will make you slightly chuckle. And, for those who like resolution, the plots come together neatly and succinctly. But there are more downsides with this book than upsides. The biggest problem I have is that every single character (I'm not using hyperbole here) is a Weird Harold. They all have strange, overbearing tics that they are simply caricatures of realistic humans. Because of this, none of the characters grow or reveal anything about human nature. This book does not add to any understanding of character. This book is just there, waiting for those brief, intermittent chuckles, after which it ends exactly where it starts and calls itself good.
When writing a book, it is fundamentally essential for the author to make his/her protagonist at least superficially likeable--or interesting. No need to thank me.
Reading APATHY AND OTHER SMALL VICTORIES is akin to swallowing air. Nada. Granted, Neilan's bizarre musings make for some eyebrow-raising passages, and much of the story is funny, but at the end of the day I walked away from this book feeling completely underwhelmed. A story about a chronic underachiever who cares about nothing and lives for nothing ultimately comes to the grand total of: Nothing.
Neilan has talent, to be sure, and I hope he takes that talent to the next level by creating a solid, edgy comedy that makes the reader crave for more. But APATHY. . .I started this book with giddy high hopes. . .and finished it feeling as passionless as I've ever felt about a book in all my days. And that, my friends, that is apathy.
I think this is a hilarious and excellent novel. I'm looking forward to what Paul Neilan does next. If he ever does. This book was published in 2007 and he's put out nothing since. He has a blog, but it hasn't updated in over a decade. It's a shame that he'll likely end up a one book author.