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Home Land: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, December 9, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Former Feed editor Lipsyte was one of the young writers to come out of Open City's initial rise in the '90s; his collection of short stories was followed by 2001's The Subject Steve, a kind of condensed Infinite Jest. This second novel is written as a series of insanely baroque, inappropriately intimate letters to a high school alumni newsletter, 20 or so years after graduation. The letters' fictional author, Lewis Miner, aka "Teabag," is clearly lucid enough to know that the letters could never be printed, let alone appreciated by what emerge as his philistine fellow graduates, but he persists anyway. That giddy, passing-itself-off-as-ordinary persistence becomes the point of the novel, which presents lives that continue in the face of crushing, banal and heartbreaking failures. Lewis can barely make his rent payments, is employed writing "FakeFacts" for a cola outfit and is recovering from his fiancée's recent departure. He and his clique of Eastern Valley High leftovers cope as best they can, taunting and analyzing one another unceasingly. The novel climaxes, if it can be called that, at a surreal gathering of former classmates dubbed a Togethering. At every turn, Lipsyte plays on the clichés of the stuck-white-aging-male, though he embellishes them with sharp dialogue. That the novel is an unpleasant, static read is a sign of its uncompromising, mise-en-abyme success.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From The New Yorker
The hero of this comic novel, Lewis Miner, a.k.a. Teabag, was a high-school stoner, and now makes it his mission to write extremely candid letters to the alumni newsletter. His life, as he writes, "did not pan out." He works as a dishwasher in his father's cheesy catering business and spends his free time moping with his friend Gary, who sued his parents for molestation and then sued the shrink who conjured up these false memories. Teabag's letters detail his sexual fantasies (most of which involve the leg warmers of the school's jazz-dancing squad), his stalled ambition, and the misshapen pearls of wisdom he's garnered from his bottomed-out life. The story ends in an improbable shootout, but Lipsyte transfigures Teabag's self-loathing into a sensibility that is both hilarious and noble.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
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Top customer reviews
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What I Can Appreciate
- There is some successful attempts at humor.
- Being somewhat random myself, I at times enjoyed his tangents (like when he says that instead of placenta, women should deliver a loaf of sourdough bread- sure, okay).
- If you enjoy the "slacker" genre, than this is probably right up your alley. Grown men acting like kids? Check. Unemployment? Check. Drug and alcohol abuse? Check. Sidekick? Check. If you like those Jay and Silent Bob movies, this is your thing. Personally, I don't, but in the interest of objectivity I know that these things probably appeal to people who like this area of literature.
- Sam Lipsyte is an intelligent guy, and it shows in his writing.
- The novel's frame is interesting, that of the set-up of a high school reunion newsletter.
- The entire time I wanted to scream, "Get a job, stop wasting your money on pot and booze, keep your junk in your pants, and grow the heck up." This is me, though- I am a woman in her late twenties- I have a hard time relating to this mentality. And, in fairness, I put this as a positive too.
- It's been done before. I mentioned Copeland and Palahniuk, both men that have done the same thing, if not better. It's a rant, but it's really not successful at portraying anything new, or anything in a new way.
- Sometimes I think Lipsyte shocks for shock's sake (hey, speaking of Palahniuk...). I'm fine with profanity, sexuality, things of the disgusting nature if they have purpose.
- I just wanted it to be over- I wasn't attached to the characters or the writing style.
I really, really think that the reader matters here- this isn't a universal read by any means.
I loved this book, truly and honestly. Although my school life was never as bizzare as that of the characters in this future classic, this is definitely the funniest book I've ever read where Home Land was the title.
Okay, it's only the second book I've read with sucha title, the other being Homeland by R.A. Salvatore (Book 1 in The Dark Elf Trilogy) and that one wasn't intended to be funny.
One complaint I do have though. Why no audiobook version? Honestly, if you were to do one and couldn't get the author, Marc Maron or Chasing Amy's Jason Lee would be perfect.
Lipsyte's ranting narrator, Lewis Miner, is one funny guy:
"Each of us walks to the beat of a different drummer. It's just that some of these drummers suck"
The characters in this book, some of whom, it seems, have written reviews of this book here on Amazon.com (including Dr. Stacy Ryson) are a lot of fun. Miner's fixations are hilarious - he calls one of the characters Jazz Loretta because she was in the Jazz Dancing Club. He describes his ex-wife Gwendolyn as "that doe-eyed, elklike beauty." I'm still trying to imagine that. Lewis Miner, a.k.a. "Teabag," was pretty unsuccessful in high school, just about the lowest in the social hierarchy, so now he's stuck there writing obsessive, ranting contributions to the alumni newsletter, "Catamount Notes," and he can't even get them to print any of them.
About half way through I became discouraged and almost quit because the book just sort of floundered. Even the author is aware of this, he becomes discouraged and writes of his so-called updates, "There are no themes, no leitmotifs. There is no story."
I'm glad I stuck with it, though, because the book just keeps getting funnier even as the plot becomes sillier. Just look at the picture of the author on the back cover. I can imagine the photographer saying, "Okay, c'mon! Quit screwing around! Let's take the picture already!"
Highly recommended not for classic novel form but for intelligent humor.