10 March 2012

Books: Apathy and Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan (2006)

There are parts of Apathy and Other Small Victories that just wanted me to throw it down because the character of Shane is someone I would never want to spend time with. He’s nihilist that conservatives rant about, and he has this overwhelming sense that he’s funny. Well, maybe. Because there are times in this novel where I was not sure if the character was narrating or the author was doing stand-up. 

All 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.

The book has a great opening line, but the novel is a bit all over the place. It was recommended by a friend, but this weirdly, often funny novel collapses under its insistence that someone like Shane can actually exist. It’s like Neilan watched too much Twin Peaks and tried to create a less complex version of that show, but with all the weird people. It works to an extent, but Shane is rather pathetic, clownish guy who probably would have killed himself long ago, but can’t seem to care.

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