Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sam Lipstyte-The Ask

The Globe and Mail gives a thumbs up to one of my favourites for the spring.
Sam Lipsyte is a kind of twitchier Phillip Roth, shot through with George Saunders-like absurdities. After his sublime third book Home Land, the worry was that Lipsyte could get too comfortable with the erudite messup as his stock character, but similarities aside, that's not the case here. There's more depth and superior minor characters throughout.
Milo Burke has misused his early artistic gifts and now labours at a mediocre university stuck in a fundraising job.
After getting fired for putting an insufferable student in her place, Milo's precarious marriage, his young son, and lack of funds force his hand. He grabs a rope offered from his office to secure a very large "ask" from a former college roommate. The catch is that Purdy has money to burn, and without giving too much away, Milo needs to navigate several minefields to make this work.
The great minor character comes in the form of Purdy's long lost son Don, a legless, bitter veteran back from Iraq.
The plot takes a bit of a back seat to Lipsyte's glorious screeds on class, ambition and the gathering darkness visited on one not ready for the responsibility of adulthood.
The sonic assault that Lipstye is capable of make for the very minor structural flaws.
I have to believe that the great Bill Hicks is looking down approvingly on our guy.
He's just that damn good.

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