Everything Is Awful and You're a Terrible Person
By Daniel Zomparelli. Arsenal Pulp, 198 pp, softcover
Were it a play, Everything Is Awful and You’re a Terrible Person would have me fidgeting and glancing longingly at exit signs.
For this reader, Daniel Zomparelli’s collection of 32 narrative pieces (some an eighth of a page in size) triggered strong feelings: dispiritment mixed with boredom. Fascination? Not so much.
The lowness mostly stemmed from the contemporary splinter of reality Zomparelli opts to depict. Set primarily in Vancouver’s West End (with occasional hops to T.O. near Church and Wellesley and one road trip to Atlantic Canada in the title story), it’s a kind of generational snapshot—an unapologetically urban-gay-male-centric updating of Douglas Coupland’s 1992 collection, Shampoo Planet. In Everything’s environment, bars, shopping, therapy, recreational and big-pharma drugs, YouTube videos, Grindr-profile cruising, hooking up, and relentless selfie-taking (or hashtag-making) are defining characteristics. Politics per se don’t exist. Instead, curiosity about the outside world seems replaced by notable self-absorption and quests for constant distractions from nagging senses of discontentment. In piece after piece, though, sentiment like “failed night clubs, failed past boyfriends, failed Grindr dates”, “I have to hook up,” “my YouTube video went viral,” and “I swiped left, hit the block button, swiped left, hit the block button” encourages is-that-all-there-is exasperation or grumpy-old-person-muttering-about-impossibly-facile-young-people responses.
The cumulative boredom originates with sameness of voice and character type. Zomparelli’s young men register as being of a kind. They check their phones (which are essential prosthetic devices), hook up (or try to) using phone apps, or wander about in a haze of self-analysis. They seem uninterested in existence beyond sex apps and watching screens, and contented with their understanding that consumerism and Girls-like dissatisfaction and pep talks count as a fulfilled life. For one story, that’s a provocative enough observation about the generational state of things. Five or 10 stories later, though, it’s wearying. At 20, the bit’s stale.
Given Zomparelli’s general cleverness and comic outlook, seeing how he treats material outside his comfort area will be intriguing. A gay guy in Yellowknife? One who’s older than 25? Heaven knows there are lots of options.