Book Review: You’re Not Much Use To Anyone by David Shapiro

Oh the irony of this title.

The official blurb:

“David is a freshly minted NYU grad who’s working a not-quite-entry-level job, falling in love, and telling his parents he’s studying for the LSAT. He starts a Tumblr blog, typing out posts on his BlackBerry under his desk—a blog that becomes wildly popular and brings him to the attention of major media (The New York Times) as well as the White House. But his outward fame doesn’t quell his confusion about the world and his direction in it.

This semiautobiographical debut is a coming-of-age story perfect for our time. In A Sense of Direction author Gideon Lewis-Kraus’s words, “If Tao Lin had been born to Gary Shteyngart’s parents and spent his early twenties slaving for pageviews at NewYorker.com, he would have written something like this, the Bright Lights, Big City of the click-here-now generation.”

I’m not sure what the point of this whole thing was supposed to be. The reviews that greet you the minute you open the file all talk of it being “funny, piercingly honest…” and “very funny and deeply moving…”

Did we read the same book? There was humor in this book? Did I miss it? The piece I read wasn’t funny or “piercingly honest” or whatever other blurbs are being thrown at this one. Maybe I just didn’t get it. Maybe it’s too “inside” of a world I’m very far on the outside of – New York, indie music snobbery, caring about being popular on the internet.

I made a note somewhere in the first thirty or so pages that simply read “Asperger’s???” The voice of our narrator checked off a lot of the aspie boxes: taking everything completely literal, zero grey area, little empathy or awareness of the emotions of others, excelling at or fixating over one particular thing. This is brought up toward the end of the book when online reviews of the protagonist’s online reviews (because it’s OH SO VERY meta in that way) asks the same questions. Does this kid have Asperger’s? I don’t know. I’m not an expert and the answer is not decided within the pages of this book. It does, however, feel that way to someone who knows a little about it and has done some basic research on the subject. (Pss, that someone is me.)

This was another of those books that I got to the end and thought “So what?” What was this book trying to say? Commentary on internet fame? Eh. Insights into love in NYC in your early twenties? Meh. A display of utter and complete unchecked privilege in a world where people are working harder than this kid ever will? Bah.

I didn’t get the fuss. I let it marinade for a bit and still don’t get it. Why am I supposed to care about someone whose parents pay for everything, from his schooling to his rent to his cell phone bill while he’s getting drunk, stoned, sleeping with girls and lying about his intent to study for his LSATs? Again, who cares?

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