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Welfare

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"Welfare" is wholly made up of four-line paragraphs and has a cadence that is uniquely its own. A high school student leaves his parents' home to live on his own with friends and with the help of government aid. The narrator becomes your best friend on the first page.


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"Welfare" is wholly made up of four-line paragraphs and has a cadence that is uniquely its own. A high school student leaves his parents' home to live on his own with friends and with the help of government aid. The narrator becomes your best friend on the first page.

30 review for Welfare

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bud Smith

    WELFARE is the most powerful novel I've ever read about being on the edge of adulthood and having no interest in what other adults want. This is a novel that questions what being an individual is worth to society, and laughs at what their answer is, spits on them even for suggesting someone's life is worth that little. In the opening pages, our protagonist, Stan Acker choses to leave behind the problems under his parent's roof, suffering the abuses of his step-mother, and enduring the shrugs of WELFARE is the most powerful novel I've ever read about being on the edge of adulthood and having no interest in what other adults want. This is a novel that questions what being an individual is worth to society, and laughs at what their answer is, spits on them even for suggesting someone's life is worth that little. In the opening pages, our protagonist, Stan Acker choses to leave behind the problems under his parent's roof, suffering the abuses of his step-mother, and enduring the shrugs of his numb father (who himself walked out of high school and into a factory job which he has sleepwalked through for forty years). Instead of becoming like everybody else, Stan becomes himself, walks the streets, bums cigarettes, reads books in the grass, starves, starves some more, puffs a joint, dreams of a hot meal, walks a million miles around Canada to try and make good at the welfare office. It's an epic journey, one that Odysseus might not have even been able to succeed at. Stan Acker doesn't want to drop out of high school, he wants to stick around and graduate. The government sends him a check every month but he doesn't dream the same dreams as everybody else. He wants something more. He's starving to death, but not just for food, he's starving to death for a friend, for a girl, for hope, for beauty. Anwyll writes in 'a plainsong that is crushingly poetic in its anti-purple prose'. His writing is hypnotizing, full of a personal, idiosyncratic rhythm that pulls at the reader, dragging them happily through dumps, and alleys, and through the snowy waysides of the little sleepy fishing village. I wouldn't call this stark writing, this writing feels lush because it is overflowing with humor, and an unstoppable urge to fight. The ideas put forth by society seem stark. The rejection of those ideals by Stan feel triumphant. We are growing up with Stan Acker in this book. He is on an epic journey, one that Odysseus might not even be able to come out the victor on, but Stan Acker is determined, even if that determination just means, getting by and carving out some breathing room from the pricks, a chance to put his feet up on the table, light a joint, read some books in peace, hey - maybe even get lucky enough to be able to eat something for dinner tonight besides white rice. The copy on the back of the novel says Acker is an anti-hero. Yeah, not to me. To me he is one of the greatest heroes ever written. A person who knows that slacking off is admirable. "I like doing nothing, it's agreeable to my spirit." Welfare is its 100% own thing, written by an author at the front door of a shitload of affecting, complicated work, that both pulls at the heart strings and also cuts the heart strings with garden sheers and laughs as the blood gushes out of the heart and gets all over the carpet. I want to shout out some similar books for readers, hoping to get you to open up Welfare and spend some time with the ugly prettiness within. Welfare is like Bukowski without any of his bullshit. Elevated Bukowski. Or Knut Hamsun's Hunger, if Knut Hamsun was funny about his suffering, if Knut Hamsun saw the joke in all of it. Elevated Hamsen. Or Celine. Welfare felt like a much more human and wise, Journey to the End of the Night. Elevated Celine. It also feels inspired by death metal, love, warm rain, travel, dreams, singing in one's head, the smell of gasoline, walking slow on purpose, last chances, saying fuck it, dwarves with knives, rashes, burns, flipping burgers, free hot dogs, madness, delirium, a girl with the bluest eyes, becoming one's self and telling everyone else to fuck off. I'll also say, this was one of those novels, while I was reading it, I was convinced that the novel is the greatest invention, this was a novel that swept me away and made me forget all my problems, but also made me remember what it was like being 16,17,18, back when I was afraid I'd have to settle for something out of life that I didn't want to do. Welfare is such a firebomb of a book, it'll make you believe in your life. If you're an artist it will send you to your art and have you make some more.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Tyrant Books is cranking out some really amazing literature. Welfare is a manic, depressive, highly infectious novel about a runaway teenager on the cusp of adulthood who is incapable of giving a fuck about growing up. I mean, sure, he thinks about giving a fuck, he thinks about giving a lot of them. But when push comes to shove, he's inexplicably unable to actually give them. Our narrator Stan spends a lot of time wallowing in self-pity, painfully aware of how he got to where he is - living in a Tyrant Books is cranking out some really amazing literature. Welfare is a manic, depressive, highly infectious novel about a runaway teenager on the cusp of adulthood who is incapable of giving a fuck about growing up. I mean, sure, he thinks about giving a fuck, he thinks about giving a lot of them. But when push comes to shove, he's inexplicably unable to actually give them. Our narrator Stan spends a lot of time wallowing in self-pity, painfully aware of how he got to where he is - living in a shitty dump with a roommate he sorta hates, penniless, always on the verge of starving. He's knows how dire his siutation is. He's humilitated that he's had to resort to collecting welfare checks, yet he refuses to apply for jobs that he believes are beneath him, and harbors this bizarre fantasy that he's owed better. Everything he touches or tries to accomplish turns to shit, mostly because he half-asses everything. And when his case worker starts putting the pressure on, he suffers from a near-paralization and over-rationalization of ridiculous reasons why he shouldn't have to search for a job, convincing himself that they are super reasonable excuses and so refuses to give a fuck. While Stan is a total piece of shit, the book itself is a fucking riot. Much in the same way Sam Pink can take a a peice of shit asshole and make us love then, Anwyll's a master at making us give a crap about someone who certainly doesn't deserve it. He's created the perfect mooch - that guy that you'd let crash on your couch because you just feel so damn sorry for him. In fact, he tells Stan's story so well I have to wonder how much of what I've read is autobiographical.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    five stars for stan five stars for steve five stars for welfare so fifteen stars. this book is like a john hughes movie that never got made because the actor cast to star as the teen protagonanist said ‘fuck you john hughes, who do you think you are’

  4. 4 out of 5

    Julia Gaughan

    I found the story itself fascinating but was very distracted by the grammar/punctuation/spelling issues. The narrator voiced a level of hopelessness, vacillating self-delusion/self-loathing, and dire circumstances without letting up in a way that I haven’t frequently seen. I do think it could’ve been tightened up, though, which also goes back to editorial support. Will definitely be following this author regardless.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Debby Craggs

    Difficult subject and another example of difficulties we face as humans. Unappreciated and never really connected to his parents, this young man is free floating with no direction or goals and ends up on welfare. I liked Steve Anwyll's writing and the approach. Hard subject and a thought provoking read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mike Andrelczyk

    Anwyll’s story of a 17-year old on welfare is brilliant. Stan is a beat-down Bartleby, Holden Caulfield on hash, a young Bukowski type that values time and freedom over money and would rather not work a job at all. Stan would rather laze around, read, smoke and just live. But he also needs to eat and pay rent. The small industrial city where he lives offers few other options than to sell your soul to a dead end job - trade life for comfort. Stan teeters between wanting the high life and just wan Anwyll’s story of a 17-year old on welfare is brilliant. Stan is a beat-down Bartleby, Holden Caulfield on hash, a young Bukowski type that values time and freedom over money and would rather not work a job at all. Stan would rather laze around, read, smoke and just live. But he also needs to eat and pay rent. The small industrial city where he lives offers few other options than to sell your soul to a dead end job - trade life for comfort. Stan teeters between wanting the high life and just wanting to get high. And he can’t get a job anyway. The paradox of the young unemployed man: experience required. Anwyll’s style of short blocks of text made of up sentence fragments is hypnotic. Should I be worried I identified so much with Stan? I don’t think so. A great writer finds a way to connect with everyone and who hasn’t had hopes shattered, felt doubt, felt crazy, lonely, insecure, humiliated, disappointed by life? Have you ever wanted to turn around on your way to work because it’s such a nice day and you can’t imagine spending it at a desk or in front of a machine? Isn’t it insane to give your entire life over to working at some job just to make the boss rich? But if you say that most people think you’re the crazy one. It’s a subject that’s perfect for literature - full of introspection, sadness and humor. It’s nice to hear some sanity from Steve Anwyll. Life is too beautiful to trade it away for a new truck and a pool. That’s an easy thing to say — and many of us willingly choose comfort over the insecurity of true freedom — but it’s important to remember that time keeps going and there’s a world outside the factory walls and you can punch out and explore it if you want.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cavin

    You're told to graduate. Go to college. Get a job. Or just graduate, get a job. Or maybe flunk out... and get a job. You see everybody doing it. You see them grow up. You see them get beaten into the mud. You decide not to follow in their footsteps. You are hungry every day. You get trapped behind the line. You start declining. You see the light-- at least there is food in a 9-5 gig. At least there is no worry about making rent, being homeless. But it's too late. You've lost the game. The game w You're told to graduate. Go to college. Get a job. Or just graduate, get a job. Or maybe flunk out... and get a job. You see everybody doing it. You see them grow up. You see them get beaten into the mud. You decide not to follow in their footsteps. You are hungry every day. You get trapped behind the line. You start declining. You see the light-- at least there is food in a 9-5 gig. At least there is no worry about making rent, being homeless. But it's too late. You've lost the game. The game was rigged from the start. This is a book for anyone. College graduates, factory workers, and high school students. Drop outs. Fishmongers. Anybody. And that's part of what makes it so special, the unification of poverty. Of struggle. Small doses of comic relief sustaining you as the world crumbles, as your stomach growls. Read this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Zac Smith

    READ THIS BOOK it is so, so, so grounded in reality. unpretentious, masterfully crafted. one nonstop punch in the face and stomach. is it a pure, beautiful, dark, nihilistic in the sense that there is no moral, message, philosophy, other than that this is humanity, this is the world we live in, this is the unendurable reality for the people you intentionally never make eye contact with. this is the reality one can so easily fall into. this is the harsh, clear look at the world. and the writing style READ THIS BOOK it is so, so, so grounded in reality. unpretentious, masterfully crafted. one nonstop punch in the face and stomach. is it a pure, beautiful, dark, nihilistic in the sense that there is no moral, message, philosophy, other than that this is humanity, this is the world we live in, this is the unendurable reality for the people you intentionally never make eye contact with. this is the reality one can so easily fall into. this is the harsh, clear look at the world. and the writing style is powerful, brutal. it is like a fucking doom metal dirge. fuck the catcher in the rye. fuck a separate peace. fuck huck finn. fuck everybody. read this and go cry, you piece of shit. i can't do this book any justice with a shitty goodreads review. fucking buy it and read it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    justin louie

    at first it's a bit like a would-be prequel to dan fante's alter ego, which is fine, because i like those books. but then i started seeing past the self-absorption and recognized a lot of myself in the narrator (uh oh). fully realized, the book pretty aptly describes the logistical nightmare of being a depressed burnout in poverty, at 16 years old. the short paragraph formatting gives it a relentless pace, like all this shit is inevitable. it's not celebratory in the boring nihilistic way a lot at first it's a bit like a would-be prequel to dan fante's alter ego, which is fine, because i like those books. but then i started seeing past the self-absorption and recognized a lot of myself in the narrator (uh oh). fully realized, the book pretty aptly describes the logistical nightmare of being a depressed burnout in poverty, at 16 years old. the short paragraph formatting gives it a relentless pace, like all this shit is inevitable. it's not celebratory in the boring nihilistic way a lot of authors take with this kind of subject matter. the despair felt authentic to me. i got an earlier copy, which had a lot typos and grammatical errors.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jason Lucarelli

    The multitude of spelling, punctuation, and tense errors on every page made this book impossible to get through. These kinds of errors break the spell. They diminish the authority of the author, editor, text. Shame, shame.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sara Rines

    The writing was very good, which helped make up for the depressing lack of a storyline. But maybe that was the point—people in that situation have a consistent lack of opportunities and therefore a bleak outlook.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Erik Carter

    Brutal.

  13. 5 out of 5

    ssol

    Had to go for a long walk in the park after this one

  14. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Pulsifer

    (3.5 stars)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Josh Sherman

    For anyone looking for a contemporary "Hunger" or "Ask The Dust," this one's your fix.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Baitz

    A sobering read. Maybe we've all had a little Stan in us at some point in our lives.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Devon DeRaad

    This book made me feel seen in my young adult angst and malaise. It has a very Catcher in the Rye, young white male search for identity feel, but feels less contrived and more honest.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    read half of this while drunk. stared out at empty parking lots after reading certain passages. thought about driving far away. a funny and warm book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Malik

    Gripping novel that looks into the mind of an almost-high school dropout trying to find his place in a world that seems to not want him.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Derick

    this is a good book to smoke to, while taking furtive nips from a halfpint of evan williams, in the parking lot of a derelict laundromat.

  21. 5 out of 5

    David Catney

    i think this book is really good. i don’t reread many books, but i feel like i will be coming back to this one often.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marie Cohen

    Would have rated it four stars if not for all the multiple spelling and grammatical errors. Perhaps they were intentional but they were very distracting.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mgganeles

    It would have made a good short story. The author is a good writer but the book would have been served well by a good editor.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Garrett

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bram

    Relatable. A book of not being caught in a trap that has already sprung. Lot of insight. A necessarily slow read that picks up pace. Recommended.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Giacomo Pope

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jason Graff

  28. 4 out of 5

    Brent

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dany

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maurice

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