Pin It
Favorite

'The Ask,' Sam Lipsyte 

A 300-page rant about life’s emptiness, The Ask is clever and funny.

click to enlarge art14998.jpg

Milo Burke — the “hero” of Sam Lipsyte’s third novel, The Ask — is a callous, sorry sack. Charged with propelling the action in this novel, Burke has a tall order: He has to ride atop Lipsyte’s sarcasm and apparent fear of actually being alive.

Burke’s a development officer at some mediocre New York university, and his job is to convince alumni to fork over big cash. As a failed artist, Burke hates his job. His wife kinda hates him. And to start the novel, he gets fired for insulting an important donor’s daughter. (He knew it was wrong, but he couldn’t help himself.)

But — and this is the novel’s central action — he’s in luck. A super-rich “ask” happens to be an old friend of his, and the friend will work with no one else.

What follows — Burke cleaning up after the rich friend’s illegitimate son — has been called a “cynical, spot-on satire of America after the meltdown” and an “unrelenting tour de force of black bile.”

A fable for our times, perhaps, but the novel is such a downer. Work sucks. Aspirations are worthless. Being a dad is a bummer. Marriage doesn’t work. Friendships don’t last.

The Ask wallows in failure and bitterness, and it’s frightening to read. Is this how I should spend my free time? Reading about our horrible world and our broken culture? Why even go on living …?

Because life’s a gas, which gets to the book’s saving grace and mild annoyance. Burke is always ranting and way too clever. Here he is describing flirting: “It had been years since I’d flirted. I felt as though I were snorting cocaine, or rappelling down a cliffside, or cliffsurfing off a cliff of pure cocaine.” And here he is queuing at the post office behind a slow-moving procession of his neighborhood’s immigrants: “Don’t you worry your behavior will reduce me to generalizations about why your lands are historically f---ed?” He’s like some hopped-up jerk at a party whose jokes are funny for, like, 15 minutes — but an hour later? Or 300 pages later?

  • Pin It

Latest in Arts & Culture

  • In the Line of Fire
  • In the Line of Fire

    The Spokane Firefighters Memorial Project reminds us of those who died in their duty to protect
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • Through His Eyes
  • Through His Eyes

    Dean Davis' show at the MAC is a survey of the region's artistic talents
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • For Your Consideration
  • For Your Consideration

    Creepy games, financial podcast pick and an important book
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu
A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol @ University of Idaho Hartung Theater

Fri., Dec. 19, 7:30-9 p.m. and Sat., Dec. 20, 7:30-9 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Nicholas Deshais

  • Rehab Reality
  • Rehab Reality

    Toys are stacked on the front porch of the Isabella House, but the kids are nowhere to be seen. Inside the front door and behind a red, velvety curtain in the imposing 113-year-old house on the edge of Coeur d’Alene Park in Browne’s Addition, their playroom is also abandoned.
    • Jun 3, 2013
  • Studying Spokane
  • Studying Spokane

    One third-year med student relishes his time at UW East
    • Apr 2, 2013
  • Ever Ready
  • Ever Ready

    What happens after you dial 911?
    • Apr 2, 2013
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Captain Planet

    Recycle Man is making the world a little better for people and mascots alike, one bottle at a time
    • Dec 10, 2014
  • Swipe right for love

    Technology has totally revolutionized romance. Or maybe it hasn't.
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • More »

Top Tags in
Culture & Food

Culture


last word


Digest


Food


for your consideration


© 2014 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation