At the core of Apartment is a unique examination of male friendship, male identity. Wayne deftly chronicles the devolution of a friendship, slowly unwinding, thread by uncomfortable thread ... Wayne also astutely explores how one decision can alter the course of a life, triggering a domino effect—how one may look back in hindsight and feel regret for decisions made, only after learning of the bitter outcome. If you enjoy character-driven novels, you will likely appreciate Wayne’s examination of friendships, class, power, gender, and sexuality here. More than just the simple storyline posed at the outset, Apartment delves into these deeper constructs through the lens of mid-late ‘90s New York in a fresh, biting way. A bit unconventional, this is the type of book that wasn’t begging me to pick it up, but did not easily allow me to put it down once I started.
Since Wayne is a veteran writer, he knows that we know what he’s doing in these opening pages. He’s setting himself the difficult task of asking the reader to cut through numerous layers of prophylactic irony — the unnamed narrator protecting himself, as an insecure aspiring writer; the author operating within the limited skill set of his narrator — to access some deeper emotional truth about these characters. It’s to Wayne’s credit that he often succeeds, despite the sometimes-maddening (I know, he knows!) flaws that he’s painstakingly signposted ... the roommates pivot on questions of gender and sexuality, questions to which I found Wayne’s approach at once overly cagey and too on-the-nose ... Wayne’s choices here 'work' in the sense that we believe his narrator would, were he writing the novelization of his life, handle his discomfort with his body and feelings with these kinds of hints and dodgy revelations. But at the same time, it feels a little cheap to turn the central character’s genuinely poignant longing and trauma into a scavenger hunt ... I couldn’t help feeling that the busyness and extremity of the plot’s denouement undercut the author’s otherwise humane sensibility. In other words: Just because he told me he was going to flinch doesn’t mean I wasn’t disappointed when he did.
When the relationship between the two men begins to fray, you wonder if this won’t turn into a thriller—it’s so easy to imagine masculine feeling sublimated into violence! Wayne doesn’t give us crime, but the passion beneath it; that’s far more surprising, and makes for a much more difficult book ... I’m dancing around the specifics because there’s a pleasure to Apartment that it would be unfair to spoil. It’s an enjoyable read (a taut story that the author bravely sees through to its inevitable end) with some insight into the strange condition of manhood.
... there’s a trickiness and intimacy to Wayne’s tale of two aspiring novelists that makes it more than a yarn about literary ambition. For one thing, it’s a savvy class novel ... Wayne conveys this tension subtly but palpably ... As if concerned that a novel at such an intimate, contemplative level won’t get over, Wayne conjures up some bigger dramas in the latter pages. It’s a literary revenge fantasy so outsize it risks being unbelievable, clanging against the main narrative as if a crime story were suddenly inserted into a romance. But the climactic incident does put the men’s characters into sharp relief, showing how readily affection can warp into obsession.
... darkly comic and emotionally intelligent ... Part of the historical novel’s task is to look at the past not with nostalgia but with precision, and Apartment does this exactly ... Beyond period details, though, the historical novel needs to give a sense for the talk and feel of the time — what could and couldn’t be spoken of, what could and couldn’t be imagined. And it’s in this deeper re-creation that Wayne elevates Apartment from a convincing historical facsimile to a work of art ... the narrator experiences an intimacy that is inarticulable, and it’s the tension between this edgy experience and this edgeless era that gives the novel its torque ... quieter in style but equally unsettling. It looks at it all — masculinity, literary ambition, our decade of free trade and liberalism triumphant — and finds the rot underneath.
After a slow start, it builds to a carefully seeded climax that will leave readers — and especially writers — queasy ... I would never choose to re-live — right up there with high school — is Columbia's MFA program. So it's a tribute to Wayne's subtly layered prose that I kept reading long enough to understand the stilted, self-consciously writerly tone of the narrator's tale about what turns out to be the crucial turning point in his life ... While readers may be happy to move on from this sad story of a man who finds himself shut out from the life he envisioned, its sobering climax is bound to stay with you long after you close the door on Apartment.
Despite its slow-moving plot and annoyingly pretentious and desperate protagonist, Apartment manages to provide a nuanced look at masculinity, sexuality, and class. Wayne’s strength lies in his characters, which he writes with impeccable clarity; the narrator’s thoughts and actions are consistently believable, and the tension between characters is always painfully palpable. Though not a pleasant read, Apartment still has a lot to offer its readers.
There’s perhaps no living writer better at chronicling the most crucial emotional flash points of the young modern male than Teddy Wayne ... Wayne’s knack for unpacking the fragility of masculinity continues to shine ... binge-worthy ... Billy initially resonates as the kind of character only a rich kid would write, but it isn’t long before this fetishization of the lower middle-class is revealed to be intentional ... is foremost an exploration of male intimacy as told by a less sinister brand of loner than the one Wayne tracked in his previous novel ... a lot for a book that runs under 200 pages, and, unsurprisingly, not everything is unpacked as satisfyingly as it could be. The clash between the narrator’s casual progressivism and Billy’s center-leaning values, for example, feels glanced over, yet another rash of self-doubt for the narrator to itch. And though Wayne writes insightfully about the logic and workings of MFA programs and the existential question of what makes art meaningful, the book can’t help but feel as if it were written for other writers. That said, the narrator ruminating on the “egotistical delusion” that the artist’s 'pain had more beauty, more holiness than the average person’s' will no doubt cut deep for many ... benefits from its immersive point of view. Wayne has a talent for burying us so deep in the psyches of his damaged characters that we only begin to see the true nature of their despair once it begins manifesting physically ... can feel claustrophobic, but it’s also indicative of the deep well of empathy Wayne has for his difficult, emotionally volatile characters. Longing, be it for a lover or a friend, can be as ugly as it can be beautiful, but it’s nothing if not human.
... succeeds as an amusing satire of the contemporary literary enterprise. It’s also a compelling story about one young man’s struggle to know himself ... Wayne deftly disarms the reader’s presumed resistance to writers writing about becoming writers ... Wayne voices strikingly resonant truths about the development of young writers and the development of young men.
Wayne captures the nuances of this dynamic—a musky cocktail of intimacy and rage and unspoken mutual resentment—with draftsmanlike precision, and when the breaking point comes, as, of course, it does, it leaves one feeling vaguely ill, in the best way possible ... A near-anthropological study of male insecurity.
... subtle, fascinating ... Wayne excels at creating a narrator both observant of his surroundings and deluded about his own feelings. Underneath the straightforward story, readers will find a careful meditation on class and power.