Insignificant Others: A Novel [NOOK Book]


What do you do when you discover your spouse has an insignificant other?

How about when you realize your own insignificant other is becoming more significant than your spouse?

There are no easy answers to these questions, but Stephen McCauley—"the master of the modern comedy of manners" (USA ...
See more details below
Insignificant Others: A Novel

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.99 price


What do you do when you discover your spouse has an insignificant other?

How about when you realize your own insignificant other is becoming more significant than your spouse?

There are no easy answers to these questions, but Stephen McCauley—"the master of the modern comedy of manners" (USA Today)—makes exploring them a literary delight.

Richard Rossi works in HR at a touchy-feely software company and prides himself on his understanding of the foibles and fictions we all use to get through the day. Too bad he’s not as good at spotting such behavior in himself.

What else could explain his passionate affair with Benjamin, a very unavailable married man? Richard suggests birthday presents for Benjamin’s wife and vacation plans for his kids, meets him for "lunch" at a sublet apartment, and would never think about calling him after business hours.

"In the three years I’d known Benjamin, I’d come to think of him as my husband. He was, after all, a husband, and I saw it as my responsibility to protect his marriage from a barrage of outside threats and bad influences. It was the only way I could justify sleeping with him."

Since Richard is not entirely available himself—there’s Conrad, his adorable if maddening partner to contend with—it all seems perfect. But when cosmopolitan Conrad starts spending a suspicious amount of time in Ohio, and economic uncertainty challenges Richard’s chances for promotion, he realizes his priorities might be a little skewed.

With a cast of sharply drawn friends, frenemies, colleagues, and personal trainers, Insignificant Others is classic McCauley—a hilarious and ultimately haunting social satire about life in the United States at the bitter end of the boom years, when clinging to significant people and pursuits has never been more important—if only one could figure out what they are.
Read More Show Less
  • Insignificant Others
    Insignificant Others  

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439189832
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 6/8/2010
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 678,808
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Stephen McCauley
Stephen McCauley is the author of Alternatives to Sex, True Enough, The Man of the House, The Easy Way Out, and The Object of My Affection. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Visit his website at
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Dinner and Monogamy

When I learned that Conrad, my partner of eight years, was seeing someone on the side, I wasn’t completely surprised. A couple of years earlier, I’d noticed that the word “monogamy” had fallen out of our vocabulary, and I assumed he had as many reasons for no longer using it as I did. Even though it’s usually not acknowledged, at a certain point in most relationships discretion supplants fidelity as a guiding virtue.

The slow, silent fade of monogamy in our lives reminded me of something that had happened with a particularly flavorful baked chicken dish we used to make. The chicken was spiced with cumin and ground caraway seeds, preserved lemons, and a handful of musky herbs I’d picked up at a Lebanese grocery store. It filled the entire apartment with a smell that was both exotic and homey, and it came out of the oven glistening, looking nourishing and vaguely pornographic. Conrad and I both liked it a lot—after the third or fourth year of cohabitation, it was among the few things we agreed upon wholeheartedly—and he or I ended up cooking it a couple of times a month. I took a great deal of comfort and delight in sitting across the table from him and talking in bland terms, like a long-married and slightly bored couple, about the honest pleasures of the meal. Then one day, I was rummaging around in the kitchen cabinets and came across the ground caraway seeds and realized that without discussing it or consciously crossing it off a list, we hadn’t served it in over a year. I suppose both of us just got tired of the wonderful flavor. It happens.

While we’d stopped using the word “monogamy,” significantly, we hadn’t stopped using words of affection and fondness. We hadn’t stopped saying “I love you” at the end of long-distance phone calls or when one of us was half asleep and wanted to signal the other to turn out the lights. Surely, those were the more important points. Conrad frequently traveled for work, and when business was good, he sometimes spent ten or more days a month out of town. How could I have been surprised that he had an Insignificant Other as a source of entertainment? There are only so many ways to amuse yourself in a hotel room, and Conrad had never been a big one for CNN.

It was my own fault I learned about the I.O. Conrad had been striving for discretion. I was dashing around our bedroom stuffing my clothes into a backpack on a winter night, running late for an exercise class at one of the gyms I belong to, when I heard the buzzing of his cell phone. I was so shocked to realize it was on the bureau and not with him as it always seemed to be, and so distracted by my own uncharacteristic tardiness, I picked it up. There was a text message on the screen from an Ohio area code that read: Can’t fucking WAIT for you to get here. Conrad was leaving for Columbus in two days.

Conrad Mitchell and his friend Doreen McAllister ran Mitchell and McAllister, a consulting business. They traveled to cities all over the country where there was lots of new money and an attendant lack of taste—they practically lived in Florida and Texas—and advised people building multimillion-dollar houses on the artwork they should hang on their expensive walls. I could understand a client being excited about acquiring a Warhol, but the caps, even more than the “fucking,” were a dead giveaway that the message was about something else.

Because he traveled so much, and because he was a highly organized and precise person, Conrad kept a small suitcase packed with toiletries, handkerchiefs, and clean underwear in the closet. It was an expensive black leather item capable of consuming vast quantities of clothes and supplies without ever appearing bloated. It was aging well, too—in any case, better than I was. From where I stood at the bureau in our small bedroom, I could see the suitcase leaning against the paper-bag-colored wall. (Conrad had chosen a hypermasculine decor and color scheme for the bedroom, an example of protesting too much, I’d always thought.) Suddenly, the black valise had a malevolent appearance, like a slim priest who was hiding explosives under his cassock.

Conrad was at the dining room table organizing a portfolio by slipping photographs of paintings and expensive sculptures into plastic covers, his lank and pretty blond hair hanging across his face. I left the apartment without mentioning the text message, hoping he wouldn’t be able to tell I’d seen it. I wasn’t eager to admit I’d looked at his phone, and more to the point, I didn’t want to open up a discussion that would make me late for class. After decades of perpetually running behind schedule by eight or ten minutes, I’d reset my inner clock a few years earlier and was now fanatically punctual. Being prompt is one of those lesser qualities—like sending thank-you notes, wearing deodorant, and tipping the mailman at Christmas—that you can will into being with a little discipline. They don’t rank up there with Talent, Intelligence, and Goodness, but past the age of fifty, they become essential if you want to get invited to dinner parties or have your sagging jowls overlooked.

No matter what, I was never late for exercise class. For about four years, I’d been struggling with a minor compulsion related to working out. At times it was a heavy burden, but it did have its advantages. Sneaking off to the gym six or more times a week to lift weights, take spinning classes, and listen to my personal trainer’s relationship problems took up a lot of time I could have spent studying a language or reading George Eliot, but on the plus side, even at my fifty-something stage of life, I never had to worry about all the time it otherwise would have taken me to get back in shape.

The gym I belonged to near the Beacon Hill condo Conrad and I shared—versus the one I belonged to near my office in Cambridge—was a grimy basement, and the spinning classes were held in a corner room without light or ventilation. I appreciated the darkness and the privacy it conferred. The only people who crow about spending as much time as I do exercising are the ones who never get off the couch. Those of us who can’t stop ourselves tend to exercise furtively and try to pass off our lean bodies as the product of genetics. As I pedaled in the dark, getting nowhere, trying to tune out the shrill voice of the instructor and the thumping music that I liked to pretend I was speeding away from, I reasoned that I had little to worry about. Conrad’s eager friend lived in Columbus. I’d been to Columbus a number of times and had nothing against the city, but knowing Conrad’s limpid snobbery, I knew someone from there was not a threat the way a paramour from New York or Los Angeles would have been.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 24 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 18, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Stephen McCauley just keeps getting better

    Insignificant Others by Stephen McCauley is the story of Richard Rossi who has a pretty comfortable life. A good paying if not too interesting job, a long term relationship with his partner and a bit on the side with a deeply closeted married man. When it begins to appear that his partner may also have a bit on the side, Rossi begins to question some of the "truths" of his life. Set in George Bush's America when there was just an uneasiness about the financial and employment markets and in the on-line work world where the generation gap is most evident, McCauley provides his usual insight into relationships and - in this case - into the world around those relationships. Written with his trademark wit and humor - there are descriptions you just have to read aloud - this is both a humorous and a very touching book. Stephen McCauley is one of my favorite authors and I think this is his strongest book to date.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 24, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Insignificant Others by Stephen McCauley Richard Rossi is psych

    Insignificant Others by Stephen McCauley

    Richard Rossi is psychologist working in the Human Resource Department of Connectrix, a software company. He is involved with Benjamin Lamartine, a bisexual married man, while in a seven year relationship with Conrad Mitchell.

    Conrad is partner's with Doreen McAllister and they own Mitchell and McAllister, a consulting firm that helps very rich people buy and display important pieces of art. Their work forces them to travel a lll over the country, so Richard and Conrad have a few insignificant others to entertain themselves while their partners are out of town. They have an “understanding.”

    Meanwhile, Conrad has an affair with Clarke, an older gentleman from Columbus, OH who is trying to buy him an art gallery so that Conrad move there with him. Clarke wants to move up from being insignificant to being significant.

    Richard is having issues with work. After a lawsuit involving one of Connectrix workers is filed. Richard has to manage the employees involved. It’s not going well and Richard is worried that his opportunity for a promotion is in trouble.

    Without any suspense, logic, or explanation, it all works our. Richard and Conrad stay together. They both break up with their "insignificant others," and things stabilize at work.

    The book is told from the first person point of view. As I was reading it, I felt I was being preached at. The author tends to psychoanalyze it’s characters so he’s constantly telling you things, instead of showing you things. There is absolutely no suspense - it’s like it has been told in a flat affect - and there is no climax. The main character has an obsession with working out and has issues about aging - probably the only redeeming quality of the work. Bisexuality and closeted homosexuals are discussed - Benjamin - in a as a matter of fact way. The issues of open gay relationships are also discussed, but I felt the book did not decide as to whether that was a good thing or not. The book is a very easy read, shallow and fluffy, but I don’t see it as being one of the best 100 gay and lesbians books ever written.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2013

    Don't buy this book.

    It's a huge waste of money. Mine is still sitting in my Nook, at a page I don't know, completely unable to finish this book. It was awful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A lot of fun and also thought provoking

    With Insignificant Others, Stephen McCauley gives us an interesting look at modern relationships, open secrets and the way that people's priorities get mixed up despite their best efforts to stay on track. The characters are all likable and feel genuine. Most importantly, the narrator's inner struggle comes across in a way that is very relatable.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Yes, It Is Entertaining

    Interesting, too. It's not Ulysses, but it sure satisfied my need for a friendly novel to occupy my time.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2010

    Well worth the read...

    I really enjoyed this novel and I was suprised at the average reader rating. I believe the author writes very well and is able to "find" the characters. I felt like a new them after reading the novel. Of course, I could not say I knew their actions. The insights given in the novel are very good also and I thought a lot of them were true. So...if you want to read a well written novel and you have an interest in the area...I highly encourage you to do so as you will not be disappointed.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 24, 2010

    Entertaining, but Lacks Substance.

    McCauley provides an engaging read in a novel strewn with striking witticisms, but certain aspects of the work make me wonder whether the author incorporate the protagonist's social observations into his structure or if the book's apparent inconsistencies and inertia are really just weaknesses. For example, does McCauley purposefully have the protagonist Richard Rossi only discuss the novel's action rather than confronting it actively as a demonstration of the interpersonal disconnect created by technology, or does the novel simply lack a plot? Just as Rossi pedals his exercise bike to nowhere, the novel's plot seems to only imitate action rather than create it.

    Rossi's psychological issues are also somewhat inconsistent. Because he suffers from both an exercise addiction and claustrophobia, he takes the stairs rather than the elevator a work. Later in the novel, however, he states that he prefers claustrophobic city architecture to wide open spaces. Is this a discrepancy or a demonstration of the character's confusion and complexity?

    While Insignificant Others provides enthralling commentary on the mental discontent created by modernity, McCauley's plot and characterization need polishing.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)