The New York Times recently asked assorted litterateurs to vote on the best novel of the last 25 years. The trickier question: What’s the best beach read? Most whippersnappers, torn away from their World of Warcraft campaigns, will tote nothing heavier than a few comic books. A significant percentage recreate with an escapist quasi-religious exposé (i.e., The Da Vinci Code ). And some favor a large-format book that can double as a shade during prime sunburn hours (i.e., The Da Vinci Code: Special Illustrated Edition ). VLS technicians have determined that while no single book of the past quarter-century (with the possible exception of 2003’s Manual of Clinical Psychopharmacology ) comes close to being the libro de playa to end all libros de playa , the titles below all have a shot at the next competition, to be administered in 2031 by one of my clones—probably Ed251. Ed Park.
Apathy and Other Small Victories By Paul Neilan: The malaise of cubicle culture may be well-trodden comedic territory by now, but Neilan’s debut skewers office life with a flourish for the grotesque. Apathy opens with a nod to Kafka’s Joseph K., as authorities wake up blasé protagonist Shane and take him into custody for no clear reason. Accused of murder, he bounces like a pinball between a cast of cartoonish characters—insurance company lackeys, crooked cops, and an upstairs neighbor who deals in fireworks and dabbles in bestiality.