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Amazon Best Books of the Month, March 2010: How can a life so miserable be so funny? Is it because the stakes are so low (Milo Burke, the antihero of Sam Lipsyte's novel, The Ask, is a failure at many things, but most prominently at his job of pulling in major donors for a deadwater arts program at a middling university neither you nor he care about), or because they are so high (among them death, love, and the general squandering of the glories of creation on trivia)? Lipsyte's brilliant bile earned his previous novel, Home Land, one of the most passionate cult followings in recent years, and in The Ask that verbal invention is often the only thing that can rouse Milo and his peers from their ennui. They bait and badger each other and toss off complex cultural analyses to little effect, all the while haunted by the gap between wit and wisdom. Lipsyte manages to be both sour and tender to his characters, Milo in particular, whose barest shambles toward self-respect come to seem like the first baby steps of an honorable quest. --Tom Nissley
Starred Review. Lipsyte's pitch-black comedy takes aim at marriage, work, parenting, abject failure (the author's signature soapbox) and a host of subjects you haven't figured out how to feel bad about yet. This latest slice of mucked-up life follows Milo Burke, a washed-up painter living in Astoria, Queens, with his wife and three-year-old son, as he's jerked in and out of employment at a mediocre university where Milo and his equally jaded cohorts solicit funding from the Asks, or those who financially support the art program. Milo's latest target is Purdy Stuart, a former classmate turned nouveau aristocrat to whom Milo quickly becomes indentured. Purdy, it turns out, needs Milo to deliver payments to Purdy's illegitimate son, a veteran of the Iraq War whose titanium legs are fodder for a disgruntlement that makes the chip on Milo's shoulder a mere speck of dust by comparison. Submission is the order of the day, but where Home Land had a working-class trajectory, this takes its tone of lucid lament to the devastated white-collar sector; in its merciless assault on the duel between privilege and expectation, it arrives at a rare articulation of empire in decline. (Mar.)
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It's just so snarky. The author does write well. The dialogue is clever and I guess the constant cynicism may resonate with some but not only do I not know why anyone would want... Read morePublished 3 months ago by JOE BRAUNWARTH
Not an amazing plot, but this becomes a really fun read when you consider the quality of the character sketches and the wonderful and playful use of language. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Paul Moser
Readers who have problems with this book seem to want it to be a sort of book it sets out to undermine (eviscerate?) and side-step. Read morePublished 8 months ago by maggie cutler
If you enjoy funny books but want to feel smart at the same time, this is the book for you. You'll learn about arts, philosophy, history, the social landscape of university... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Lawrence Hon
Really dug this guy's writing style. Razor sharp dialog, and the prose really sings to my inner cynic. Read morePublished on September 4, 2013 by Bloated Boy
This well written, fast paced book is just what I needed. It was intelligent, funny and a slice of life.
I will now look to read other Lipsyte novels.
Many reviewers have given a variety of opinions, so I will confione myself to an issue I have with the novel. Read morePublished on May 27, 2013 by Edgar W. Bridges
I laughed my way through this book. What an unexpected delight! I have to wonder how the author is able to keep the tempo up like he did throughout his writing process. Read morePublished on May 10, 2013 by Nevisnice
I cannot believe some of the poor reviews given this book. I thought that it was the funniest novel that I read last year and rate it among the 4 or 5 best novels overall that I... Read morePublished on April 24, 2013 by Todd Moore