Saturday, March 29, 2014

Book Review: "You're Not Much Use to Anyone" by David Shapiro

Full disclosure: I received an advance readers copy of this book from NetGalleys in exchange for an unbiased review.

The last year of college is often fun, but the level of tension and uncertainty ratchets up for many students. There is often uncertainty—even fear—about what you're going to do with the rest of your life, where the money to support you will come from (if you aren't working while going to school), even what will become of the relationships you have. And unless you have a job lined up after college, you're often suffering from some general insecurity as well.

David Shapiro, in his autobiographical novel You're Not Much Use to Anyone, is suffering from all of those feelings. After graduating early from NYU, he doesn't know what he wants to do with his life (although his parents, who are supporting him financially, expect him to go to law school). He's a little insecure about himself physically, and his self-esteem only seems to blossom when he's in a relationship. But he's not quite willing to give himself entirely to relationships, and whenever one of his girlfriends leaves for a job opportunity or something else, he's ready to end the relationship instead of dealing with worries about her cheating on him with someone better.

David gets a job working in the file room of a large company, although it's clear to everyone he's tremendously overqualified for what he does. But it's a good way to make money of his own, and allegedly study for the LSATs. Plus, he can pacify his demanding mother and his conspiracy theory-prone father.

The one thing David is passionate about is the music review site Pitchfork. So many of the reviews he reads on the site infuriate him, and he resents the power this website has to destroy the career of up and coming bands with negative reviews, and build up a less deserving band (in David's mind) with hype and praise. So after ranting about Pitchfork to anyone who will listen, he decides to set up his own Tumblr blog in which he reviews Pitchfork reviews, called Pitchfork Reviews Reviews. Of course, he doesn't have a computer, so he types up the entries surreptitiously on his Blackberry and sends them to his roommate, who posts them on David's behalf. (But no one can no that.)

Before long, David's Tumblr blog has become quite popular, and even the media has taken interest. However, his insecurity hasn't changed, as he takes any negative comments personally. The success of his site doesn't lessen his anxiety that he might lose his job or that his parents might make him stop writing and demand he apply to law school. And it doesn't solve his romantic problems either. What's a guy to do?

You're Not Much Use to Anyone accurately captured the anxieties and insecurities of a recent college graduate, and did so with a lot of humor and emotion. Shapiro doesn't paint himself as a wholly sympathetic character—at times his inability to identify with his girlfriends' moods made it difficult to feel sorry for him when the relationships went awry. But he's definitely an amusing character, and his adventures (such as they were) made for a fun read. And now that I've finished the book, I wonder just how autobiographical this "novel" really is—were only the names changed to protect the innocent, or were some of the situations fictionalized as well? (It doesn't matter, I'm just curious.)

No comments:

Post a Comment