How Insensitive by Russell SmithHow Insensitive by Russell Smith

How Insensitive

byRussell Smith

Paperback | April 23, 2002

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Adrift in Toronto’s gossipy, grant-driven cultural scene, a coterie of overeducated, underemployed young people stab at vaguely artistic projects and scramble after the opportunities that seem tantalizingly within reach — if you know the right people. Searching for work, sex and big-city life is Ted Owen, who quickly finds himself swept into the complicated lives of the young and the jaded, people who thrive in a strange world of hip fashion and surreal night-clubs.
Russell Smith was born in South Africa and raised in Halifax. His first novel, How Insensitive, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award and Young Men, a short-story collection, was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award. He works regularly with the CBC and writes for The Globe and Mail. He lives in Toronto.
Title:How InsensitiveFormat:PaperbackPublished:April 23, 2002Publisher:Doubleday CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385659172

ISBN - 13:9780385659178


Read from the Book

ONE“But Toronto, man, I don’t know,” said the Vancouverite. They were parallel with a highway now; outside the glass long trucks inched ahead of the train. “I don’t know how anyone could live there. I couldn’t live there. I need to be able to get to the beach, or at least out of the city, you know? In Vancouver you can just drive, and before you know it you’re right there. You got the mountains, the water, the most, I bet the most beautiful scenery anywhere in the world.”Ted couldn’t remember the man’s name. He had known he was from Vancouver as soon as he had seen the red hair, the Gore-Tex pack with a Super Natural sticker on it. The trucks glinted in the afternoon light; the highway was full and slow-moving. Ted pushed his glasses back up on his nose, picked a thread off his tweed jacket. Now the Vancouverite was talking about white water rafting.“It’s just the most incredible rush. It’s almost like ecstasy, although I would never do something like that on ecstasy. I’ve thought about it, but I’d never do it. Colin did it, my friend, when we were in New Zealand. You ever done bungee cord jumping? He did it on ecstasy. Colin would. This guy’s done just about everything. But those New Zealand guys will do anything on those bungee cords. Big time. We saw one guy go over on a skateboard, not too dangerous, no. One guy goes over all the time on a motorcycle. They love it.”A thin strip of deciduous trees now separated them from the highway, which veered away gradually. Ted felt a little sick. “Is it safe?” he asked the Vancouverite, who grinned.“Safe?” he said. “There’s nothing safe about it.” He spread his heavy hiking boots out towards the seat before him and clasped his hands behind his head.“So why are you going to Toronto?” said Ted.“Oh I’m just flying from there. I’m going to Japan. Colin’s meeting me there, we’re going to spend a year in Japan.”“You’re going to teach?”“Yeah. Teach English. Melanie’s already there, she can get us a contract with the same company. We’re just going to stay in Kyoto for six months though, and then travel. I’ve been to Thailand but I’d like to spend some more time in Burma, Bali. And this time I’m going to get to Goa, see the hippies. You know, I believe that it’s really good for you to see other cultures. See as many cultures as you can. You realize when you’re out there like, whoa, mine isn’t the only way of doing things, you know? And then there’s the financial side of it. Melanie’s already hauled some major coin. Of course you spend a lot living, but I guess if you’re smart you can come away with major cash. I guess it’s better than tree-planting. And I’ve done that three summers anyway. But Toronto, man.”The Vancouverite eyed Ted. “Look at this.” He gestured out the window. “Look what they’ve done to the land here. It’s all highways and overpasses and industrial parks. You spend two hours commuting every day . . . ”“Well, actually, I — ”“And you live there for more than ten years you’re poisoned anyway. I mean the pollution, the toxins in the water. Fuck, man. They’ve done studies. The rate of birth defects is like unbelievable. And you go crazy, living like that. It’s fucked up, man. You’re running around trying to make more money than everyone else and going to the right clubs to see and be seen, you know? and talking on your cellular phone. I can’t believe these guys you see driving around in their Porsches making sure everyone sees them talking on the phone so they know how busy they are. You see these guys talking in restaurants, like give me a break. Are you really that busy that you can’t wait till after you eat? Or do you just want everyone to know that you’re busy? You know? Too, too fucked up.”“Well,” said Ted, “for what I want to do, I guess you, I think you really have to be there.”“Which is what?”“Well, I’m going to try to get into film, I think.”“Oh yeah.”“Or some kind of writing. I have a couple of degrees that are not really useful, but I . . . ”“Hey,” said the Vancouverite. He leaned forward, holding one finger in the air. “Education is never useless. As soon as you start looking at it in economic terms, you’re fucked. I think it’s really really important to do what interests you. And it’s all profitable in the end. You know, in my Dad’s firm, he says they’re looking especially for . . . ”“Right. I know. That’s why I studied psychoanalytic feminism.”“Oh yeah.” The Vancouverite sat back. “Where? McGill?”“I was at Concordia. In the cultural studies program. Have you heard of it?”The Vancouverite shook his head. He looked out the window.“We did literature, film, television, politics, all as one discipline. It’s pretty well a post-structuralist program.”“Oh yeah,” said the Vancouverite faintly. “So what did you get, a Ph.D.?”“No. A master’s. I just finished it last spring. I’m supposed to start my Ph.D. in a week. But I’m not going to.”“Oh yeah. Why not?”“Well . . . ” said Ted. His stomach tightened with the cramp he knew to be nervous. “Excuse me.” He rose.

Editorial Reviews

“Smith has an insider’s knowledge of what the targets are and the outsider’s sense of where the absurdities lie. How Insensitive is astute and welcome.” — The Globe and Mail“Russell Smith’s How Insensitive attempts what most Canadian writers shy away from — satire. In his dizzying look at Toronto’s under-30, avant-garde scene — a scene saturated with drugs, post-punk fashions, ephemeral nightclubs, poststructuralist chatter — Smith displays a satirist’s instinct for significant gesture and speech, as well as an impressive knowledge of current cultural minutiae.” — The Toronto Star“Terribly funny and very well written. This is a great first novel. There should be more.” — Quill & Quire