The Subject Steve, Sam Lipsyte's remarkable debut novel, is an ebullient, bawdy, and idiosyncratic assault on American consumer culture. Like fellow mercurial satirists Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, and David Foster Wallace, Lipsyte is an impressive stylist. His argot is the psychobabble of corporate jargon, advertising slogans, and sound bites. Wordplay rather than characterization is Lipsyte's métier and his language positively fizzes with invention. The characters here don't so much converse as exchange obtuse epigrammatic non sequiturs and indulge in linguistic quips. This should, of course, be utterly infuriating, but it isn't. The dialogue, like the rest of this savage, absurdist take on contemporary life (and more precisely our horror of death), is startlingly acute and unrelentingly funny.
The eponymous Steve (who claims his name is not Steve) is a mild-mannered 37-year old ad man who pens slogans celebrating the "ongoing orgasm of the information lifestyle." Unfortunately, he's dying, but "he's dying of something nobody has ever died of before: he's actually going to die of boredom." The scientists (who may not be scientists although they do wear white coats) "calculate that there can be no calculations" about how long he has left to live. Faced with this eventuality he embarks on a particularly wayward sexual, narcotic, and religious odyssey. Lipsyte fills Steve's journey with so many oddball doctors, multimedia weirdoes, dysfunctional gurus, and bizarre sexual encounters that it's actually rather difficult to imagine anyone dying of boredom. Exhaustion, perhaps. Ludicrous and occasionally even a little bit sick, Lipsyte's surreal, intelligent black comedy proves that death really can be a laughing matter. --Travis Elborough, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Lipsyte's latest is a dark satire in which a protagonist named Steve is diagnosed with a vague but deadly disease called Prexis that sounds suspiciously like terminal boredom with modern life. Steve's doctors, two shadowy figures known only as the Mechanic and the Philosopher, try a variety of equally vague experimental treatments on him until their programs are exposed as fraudulent. His bizarre illness sets off a panic and a media frenzy, and Steve finds himself drawn to a clinic in upstate New York called the Center for Non-Denominational Recovery and Redemption run by a shady former torture expert known only as Heinrich of Newark, who uses pain-based "treatments." The cultish clinic proves equally ineffective, so Steve takes a couple of stabs at alternative medicine before heading west into the desert to join a futuristic cult called the Realm, where he prepares to meet his maker through a strange series of therapy sessions and off-the-wall broadcasts. In the stretches between the erratic and often bizarre plot twists, the author explores the disaffections of a divorced middle-aged man, delving into his professional disappointments, the emptiness of his marriage and love life, and the death of his best friend. Lipsyte (Venus Drive) has come up with an intriguing experimental concept, but the absence of coherent, linear plot means the commentary must be particularly sharp and interesting, and much of what Lipsyte offers is rambling, self-absorbed and at times just plain annoying. The troubles of the alienated and estranged offer plenty of opportunities for an adventurous approach, but much of what Lipsyte submits is familiar, a mannered echo, product of a sensibility halfway between Lish and Vonnegut.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Editorial Reviews
Very schizophrenic. Hard to keep track of what was going on. Characters come in and out and I'm not really sure what the message was, or if there was one.Published 3 months ago by AndreaV
Howie Weener Unclogged [...] has a similar response as Lipsyte........Love it or hate it......Laugh uproariously or purse lips with disdain. Both authors go for it! Read morePublished on March 21, 2013 by Comedy Snob
I loved The Ask so I decided to pick up Subject Steve. Unfortunately, this book just left me cold. The premise of the book is great and there are some genuinely funny and original... Read morePublished on January 11, 2013 by P. Conrad
I'm a huge fan of Lipsyte's Home Land, which was brilliant, hilarious and original. The Subject Steve is also unique and funny at times, but somehow lacks the same punch. Read morePublished on April 6, 2010 by Michael J. Lennon
I love these morons who are reading one of the darkest and funniest books in recent times -- as satirical as anything by Evelyn Waugh -- complaining about a lack of "sympathetic"... Read morePublished on November 30, 2006 by Michael Leone
I was intrigued within the first 50 pages or so because of the direction it seemed to be heading. Then it got bland in the middle . Read morePublished on May 31, 2004 by T. Carlin
Relax, I was hungry when I wrote that. The book really helped once my wife diced up some Chinese pillaries. They help the apoplexy, really. Read morePublished on April 24, 2004 by J. Mason
It's sad that the work of a writer as extraordinarily gifted as Sam Lipsyte (and let's be honest: the man is a genius; there is nobody else on earth performing with his level of... Read morePublished on April 14, 2004
I've been feeling a little dispair myself, but not with matters literary. The problem I've been having, sigh, is with my old Henckels Birch Cutting Board, which unfortunately... Read morePublished on April 5, 2004