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“If you’ve heard anything about Sam Lipsyte, you’ve probably heard that he’s funny. Scabrously, deliriously, piss-yourself funny (his characters would no doubt find a dirtier, and funnier, way of putting it), drawing audible snorts even from the kind of people, such as the people in his novels, who are way too cool to laugh out loud . . . Lipsyte’s prose arrows fly with gloriously weird spin, tracing punch-drunk curlicues before hitting their marks—or landing in some weird alternate.”—Jennifer Schuessler, The New York Review of Books
“Lipsyte shakes his comic cocktail of sarcasm and bitter impotence to eloquent effect: briefcases on wheels are 'luggage for people not going anywhere,' and a Manhattan salad bar consists of 'go-goo for the regular folk, these lumpy lumpen lunches.' Milo is repulsive, hilarious, and devastatingly self-aware, but it is his country that is Lipsyte’s real subject.”—The New Yorker
“Lipsyte’s brand of absurdity is deeply rooted in the now. The recession, text messaging, reality TV—all are up for grabs. What’s particularly effective is Lipsyte’s acerbic yet subtle approach . . . But he’s never simply bitter; one can always sense a yearning in this book, even at its most acidic moments . . . Precision and painstaking craft have granted Lipsyte complete authority in The Ask, his most acidic and empathetic work to date.”—Kimberly King Parsons, Time Out New York (five stars)
“Sardonic, brilliant . . . Lipsyte skewers everything from precious preschools to academia, displaying an effortless grace and style all his own.”—People (three-and-a-half stars)
“An off-kilter and hilarious novel about work, war, sex, class, children—and Benjamin Franklin.”—O, The Oprah Magazine
“[The] gift is Lipsyte’s writing: a chewy, corrosive, and syntactically dazzling prose style that doesn’t so much run across the page as pick it up and throttle it. A-.”—Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
“Acrid, hilarious, and hard to put down.”—The Must List, Entertainment Weekly
“There’s probably not a living American writer who has so comprehensively mined the comic possibilities of that particular anguished, hapless combination of the overeducated and the underachieving as Sam Lipsyte. Against all odds, his heroes refuse to succeed, and they and we are rewarded with the endlessly entertaining spectacle of their nonstop humiliation.”—Jim Shepard, Bookforum
“Another savage, hilarious black comedy from Lipsyte . . . Once again, Lipsyte creates a main character whose lacerating, hyper-eloquent wit is directed both outward at the world—sardonic commentary on parenthood, class privilege, sexuality, the working world, education, ideas of Americanness and much more—and inward; Milo spares himself no degradation, no self-loathing, nothing. As it goes on one can’t help noticing, beneath the fevered playfulness, a deeply earnest moral vision akin to that of Joseph Heller or Stanley Elkin. The author’s most ambitious work yet—a brilliant and scabrously entertaining riff on contemporary America.”—Kirkus Reviews (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.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Lipsyte’s third novel, a darkly humorous story of sons and fathers, is both his most realistic and convulsively hilarious to date . . . Yet for all his wit, Lipsyte’s narrator is not above it all but deeply, messily down in it: the casual miracles of parenthood, the deepening thrum of mortality, the grim perdurance of a shaky marriage, ‘warm with that feeling of wanting a feeling that maybe had already fled.’ Seriously funny, Lipsyte sits alongside such illustrious Daves as Gates, Eggers, and Foster Wallace on the self-conscious shelf, but with a heartfelt brilliance all his own."—David Wright, Booklist (starred review)
Novelist Sam Lipsyte reads from The Ask at the Russian Samovar as a part of the FSG Reading Series.
The Ask is a burst of genius by a young American master who has already demonstrated that the truly provocative and important fictions are often the funniest ones.
Listen to this audiobook excerpt and hear author Sam Lipsyte read from his novel The Ask. Milo Burke—husband, father, development officer at a third-tier university—has just joined the burgeoning class of the newly unemployed. Grasping after odd jobs to support his wife and child, Milo is relieved to get another chance from his former boss. All he has to do is reel in a potential donor who, mysteriously, has requested Milo's involvement.
Lipsyte’s first novel. The author losing his mother, and making fiction. (Backyard flowers, birds.)