Peter Simons watches “prestige TV” in drunk binges and stoned marathons. He mentions as a lot at the very least a dozen occasions over the course of “Bystander,” Montreal-based Mike Steeves’ engrossing and absurdist sophomore novel.
An unsettling (albeit humorous) narrator, Simons is inconsistently self-aware, neurotic and narcissistic, and invested within the philosophical quest to know himself as long as it doesn’t intervene together with his working precept, to “act out of the most naked self-interest and moral cowardice.”
Steeves (whose earlier e-book “Giving Up” was a finalist for Concordia University’s first e-book prize) introduces Simons as a self-admitted mediocrity with the “right look”; he’s a ready-made account government with “bland good looks” who pays inordinate consideration to private hygiene. After a decade dwelling the “global business lifestyle” in a “little bubble of corporate luxury,” he’s developed a singular potential to remain centered on “something nebulous and inconsequential.”
Grounded for some time on the residence workplace, Steeves’ Millennial anti-hero begins to spiral.
At his rental — in “a modest tenement building on a partially gentrified street” in an unnamed “world-class city” — this “citizen with a mid-range six-figure salary” who has a “reputation for being competent, reliable, consistent, upbeat, results-oriented, and an all-around asset to the company” (his precise job, in finance he claims, stays imprecise and, he admits, “at least ninety percent” of what he does is for present), endures hilarious calls together with his mother and father, frets fruitlessly, obsesses out of behavior, and overshares the blind alleys and hopeless morasses of his pondering. To Steeves’ credit score, he makes Simons equally interesting and appalling.
Though Simons as soon as noticed himself as “someone with moral courage and a selfless nature,” that’s modified. “All the energy I used to devote to cultivating an appreciation for classical music is now being used for arguments with customer service representatives,” he confides. “All that remains of my intellectual curiosity is a voracious appetite for prestige TV.”
Steeves’ fashionable novel pokes enjoyable at this dude with out qualities, a wannabe mensch who will get snagged by laziness, trivia and stuff. “People like me … who have my particular socioeconomic background, can wind up advancing in their career and making a lot of money just by showing up every day and being ready and willing to do whatever the company asks of you,” he says whereas mentioning his $12,000 Japanese kitchen knife and “money-saturation method” for fixing any and all issues.
Between ridiculous office anxieties and the suicide of a neighbour (adopted by aggravating new tenants), Simons commits to getting concerned and sorting his various ethical obligations whereas stating firmly that “It’s never a good idea to get involved.”
Surrounded by sketchily nicknamed figures (Handyman, Grim Reaper, Athleisure Wear Woman), Simons undergoes a quest … or at the very least ponders doing so.
An enjoyably quirky and biting portrait of private realpolitik, “Bystander” affords a reputable complement to “Fight Club” and “American Psycho,” although one minus the chest-beating postures and litres of shed blood.
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