With the recent tidal wave of unpleasant news and orchestrated insanity, sometimes you need to take a break. Sometimes you need some sort of nondestructive respite from the madness before it eats you alive.
Some might reach for the Grey Goose? Nah. Some might sleep more? Hmm. Good luck. Some might indulge in a bit of Xanax. Gee, you ever try to get off that stuff? Some might even attend anger management groups.
These are intense and frightening times when one might be reminded of our collective cure-all, that uniquely human special gift: Apathy... That soul saving state of mind where you really don't give much of a damn about anything. Yep. A temporary reprieve from the dangerous consequences of emotional overload.
In my case, when I need to check my disgust and disdain at the door... I always return to this book:
‘Apathy and Other Small Victories,’ by Paul Neilan (June 26, 2007)
"You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it." -Art Buchwald
"My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them." -Mitch Hedberg
"At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom." -George Carlin
The pigeons are big in Paris, the gulls in Seattle. What does it all mean?
Forewarning: I have dabbled in political satire, political venom, and cute, little poignant stories hell-bent on making some sort of point, i.e. Rather ‘downer’ sort of fare. Book reviews are something I don’t have much experience with… okay, okay:
I’ve never in my life written a book review. Entonces it is sure to be short, with a lot of quotes, and vainly, a lot of me.
… To even attempt a positive book review is all the more frightening because of my knee-jerk, OCD reaction to the proverbial ‘let down.’ To read a review of something bad is quite simple: It dictates that I won’t waste my time indulging in such things. Yet if it is a glowing review, my expectations are immediately set-up for a fall. Sort of akin to everyone espousing the afterlife wonders of paradise. And upon my questionable arrival, I view the entire layout as just another cloud puff of humdrum. Or a doctor exclaims the surely amazing success of prescribing me mega-doses of Lexapro- and I resort to trying to snort the stuff because of my subsequent disappointment that I wasn’t suddenly overcome with giddy happiness.
-So much for pathetic metaphor.
Ugh, anyway, For this reason, and in consideration of people perhaps like myself, I will not recommend a book as magnificent, one-of-kind, immensely interesting, a five star must-read, and in this case, hilarious.
So regarding the Neilan book, ‘Apathy,’ I can only say that it is magnificent, one-of-kind, immensely interesting, a five star must-read, and hilarious.
With a 2007 print date, Kos Book Czars have been gracious in allowing me to write a review of an older book, one that might be up spun as vintage, redux, blast from the past …stuff like that.
When I lived in Singapore, I clung to two ‘genres:’ North European crime fiction and satire. Living on the equator, one might understand my attraction to Scandinavian and North European writings as fantasy of cold environments- in addition to them being excellent reads.
And the satire? Perhaps a response to the ant colony environment that such a city-state exudes. Or frankly, I have absolutely no clue other than being in the mood for that particular brand of absurdity. Consequently, I read Chuck P., Max B., and a number of satire writers, and satire writer wannabes.
So how I happened upon a one-book writer- a rather obscure book… well, it had to be because of the title: Apathy and Other Small Victories. For anyone willing to engage in a mother lode of sarcasm, humor, or an exploration into the deepest, muddy ditches of apathy- this is your book. Contrary to my nature, when I find myself laying in bed late at night, laughing hysterically, reading passages to my wife- but can’t because I’m laughing so hard; well, that’s not exactly normal. And frankly, I found ‘Apathy’ to be superior in no-holes-barred humor, compared to any… Any of the satires I have read.
But then again, to each his own.
The Publishers Weekly description is as follows (Amazon):
“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.”To expound on this summary, the story, told from Shane’s view- is a testament to just how far apathy might go.
The points of hilarity that decimated any of my vain attempts of reserved stoicism:
-Shane’s sexual activities with a gal that could politely be described as mercilessly brutal.
-His demanding corporate job as an alphabetizer for a large insurance carrier, and his hilarious bathroom behavior while working there.
-His entire experience with the purchase of a used bicycle (This was my favorite).
-His dentist’s continuous accidents with… well, you need to read that part for yourself.
-His ambivalent behavior with the homicide detectives.
-And the various, sordid, profoundly bizarre people that participate in Shane’s wacko-scape.
The Booklist review (Amazon):
“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 SennettOf course there’s always some pseudo-intellectual applying his supposed scholarly skill of proclaiming pseudo-insight, incomparable comparison, and most of all: Ego-boosting, cold criticism. Thanks Mr. Sennett, but you miss the point. This book is the antithesis of all those things… and damn well meant to be.
Humbly, I once wrote:
"The failing days of trying to impress people are now at an end. Mortality now measured, it is finally time to unimpress people.
… But go figure. Who pays heed to anyone that has lost the ability to separate seriousness from satire? That strange place where paradox, hyperbole, irony, metaphor, oxymoron, cynicism, and sincerity all get fused together somehow. That place where your partner asks you a simple question, and you respond by singing an intentionally bad riff from some Armin Van Buuren jingle… But most important: Not even knowing whether you’re being silly or normal."
Maybe that is why I enjoyed this book so much: I have so passed that point of cynicism yet untreatable, that is until Big Pharma invents some drug that they have no other application for.
And so past that point, perhaps Shane and myself might be restored to society’s version of mental health.