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Book Review: You’re Not Much Use To Anyone

By (July 21, 2014) No Comment

You’re Not Much Use To Anyoneyou're not much use cover
by David Shapiro
Little A, 2014
Imagine enjoying light-roast coffee in a local, independent coffee shop. The pulse of a major metropolitan city enlivens the background, and a seminal classic—say, Weezer’s Blue Album—beats through your equally classic white ear-buds. Taking a break from the blogosphere, you prepare to indulge in a newly released book—much to your frustration, it’s a book about the blogoshere.

You’re Not Much Use To Anyone is a semi-autobiographical debut novel written by David Shapiro. His narrator, also David Shapiro, lives a privileged life. Supported by his parents, David enjoys the comfort of an East Village apartment, the advantage of graduating college earlier than others, and even the convenience of having an entry-level “filing associate” position at the Fire Department Pension Fund (thanks for the referral, Mom.)

During this riveting account of post-grad life, the lucky reader follows David (and his Blackberry) on the journey from filing room stiff to internet demi-celebrity worthy of our time and attention. We first meet the affluent young Manhattanite on his way to a party on the Upper East Side. Quirky with a capital Q, David has an understandable love for Seinfeld and a befuddling love for the indie-credible band Belle & Sebastian.

With a passion for music and a hatred of the music website Pitchfork Reviews, David takes the initiative to create a Tumblr account: Pitchfork Reviews Reviews. Maybe you’ve heard of it—it’s kind of a big deal. David critiques the music critiques found on Pitchfork. Typing each blog post from his phone at work, David’s popularity exceeds his expectations. He eventually gains thousands of subscribers and the attention of the New York Times. In this hipster-doofus fairytale made flesh, You’re Not Much Use To Anyone unfolds David’s Tumblr success with flat, self-obsessed detail:

I write two posts a day. In my post in the mornings I criticize the foundations of the reviews’ arguments, agree with foundations of other reviews’ arguments. I point out typos and predict which forthcoming records will be receiving high scores. I even start assigning my own scores to Pitchfork reviews…

In the afternoons I write my second post, which is a little snippet about my own relationship to the records I listen to or an important experience or realization I had while listening to a record.

Taken at face value, You’re Not Much Use to Anyone is about…well, David. It reads like a journal full of our narrator’s self-reflections. We learn about David’s ejaculatory misfiring (and his love-life thereafter). We experience David perpetually checking his Tumblr, discovering an ever-expanding fandom of 300, 765, 1,999 (etc.) followers. As David debates his level of celebrity with friends, readers will likely debate the same. Chapter after chapter, you will search for a plot. You will search for a purpose, a deeper meaning. With the turn of every page, you will hope—dumbfounded—that such a book just has to be satire, an ironically raw account of modern life as a 20-something. Unfortunately, to paraphrase Top Gun‘s Tom “Stinger” Jordan, Shapiro’s ego is writing checks his talent can’t cash:

I very slowly twist open the cap of Diet Coke bottle to minimize the hissing sound, pour half the bottle of Diet Coke down into the toilet, making sure to pour from pretty low over the bowl so there’s no splashing. Then I fill up the Diet Coke bottle with Jack Daniel’s. Then I screw the cap back on the Jack Daniel’s bottle and gently place the empty bottle on top of the toilet to minimize the clicking sound. Then I put the bottle of half Diet Coke and half Jack Daniel’s into my backpack and stroll out of the bathroom and through the bar and out the front door of the bar. Alexandra is smoking a Parliament Light and we walk about half a block and then I take the 20oz. bottle out and start drinking it and we set off on a walk to Brooklyn.

There isn’t any more depth or substance to this book than there is to an empty bottle of whiskey. There is no plot, and there is no purpose. You’re Not Much Use To Anyone spews the same mindless, web-obsessed narcissistic drivel in which the public already over-indulges; a pretentious series of fortunate events masquerading as a coming of age tale for young professionals to flock to. Had Shapiro used his imagination and developed a character other than himself, You’re Not Much Use to Anyone could have been something more than an inferior Seinfeld riff—a book about nothing.