Venus Drive Stories

Sam Lipsyte




Trade Paperback

176 Pages



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A man with an "old soul" finds himself at a Times Square peep show, looking for more than just a little action. A young man goes into some serious regression after finding his deceased mother’s stash of morphine. A group of summer-camp sadists return to the scene of the crime.

Sam Lipsyte’s brutally funny narratives tread morally ambiguous terrain, where desperate characters stumble over hope, or sometimes merely stumble. Written with wit and empathy, Venus Drive is a potent collection of stories from "a wickedly gifted writer" (Robert Stone).


Praise for Venus Drive

“Not for the faint of heart (or soul), Venus Drive explores the complexity of despair with poignancy and sly wit.”—Christine Muhlke, The New York Times Book Review

"Lipsyte captures flashes of his characters’ complex, addled humanity and smashes a window into their hopelessness . . . It’s fascinating to read a writer who can bring you so efficiently to such uncomfortable places."—James Hannaham, The Village Voice (rated one of the Voice's top twenty-five books of the year 2000)

"I like it when short stories—metaphorically speaking, of course—smack me in the face, kind of like what Kafka said about art being like an axe. And so that’s what Sam Lipsyte’s stories do—they come at you like a fist, they knock you around, they make you wince, they make you look away, and then they make you look back."—Jonathan Ames, author of Wake Up, Sir!

"These are torqued-up, enthusiastically black-hearted stories by a grimly cheerful author. And the damned things are queerly rather loving and lovely as well. Bukowski meets Paley."—Padgett Powell, author of The Interrogative Mood

"Debut sheaf of short stories by a minimalist in the style of Raymond Carver and Gordon Lish, master of the preshrunk sentence. Lipsyte no doubt will demonstrate greater range in years to come, but at the moment he shows off the prose equivalent of three chords on a one-string guitar—a feat of some kind. He has no qualms about hanging the reader up on a sentence whose sense has gone south, nor are his themes all that clear. One reads some of the pieces here wondering if they will come into focus before brain-fog sets in. Paradoxically, the surface of a Lipsyte story, paragraph by paragraph, looks as easily taken in as a telegram. In 'Admiral of the Swiss Navy,' for example, a fat boy is so tormented one summer by fellow campers that he kills himself. Then the narrator tells us how he himself later gained weight and got picked on, perhaps as a means of assuaging his guilt. That much is subtle but clear. Much more is unclear: a severe diet, the beautiful and eager, semi-evil people out to destroy each other, how time passes swiftly while dieting. There's no denying Lipsyte's steel grip on language, and his ironies do hit home, if you can call a tone of half-smiling but unrelieved grievance-with-life a success."—Kirkus Reviews

"Lipsyte's first short story collection gathers together 13 ferocious, truncated sketches, parading before the reader various semi-addicts, telemarketers and others suffering a terminal disconnect between their skills and their status. Not that Lipsyte's characters are going to choose the traditional American way out of their economic impasse, i.e., some mixture of sycophancy and labor. Disconnection, here, is style. Lipsyte's winners tend to achieve ephemeral glory as punk rockers or e-zine magnates before burning out. The narrator of 'My Life, for Promotional Use Only' is a worn-out postpunk legend now working for his ex-girlfriend, Rosalie, in an office where everyone is eager to advance. 'The people I work with are human r sum s. They are fluent in every computer language, boast degrees in marketing and medieval song. They snowboard on everything but snow. They study esoteric forms of South American combat and go on all-deer diets.' The '90s prosperity is perceived as an alien excrescence. From 'Admiral of the Swiss Navy' or 'The Drury Girl,' where the dark view of suburban childhoods predominates, to 'Old Soul,' the first story, about the narrator's sister's death from cancer, these people take the world much too seriously and yet risk things much too lightly. In 'Beautiful Game,' Gary is out on parole for possession; though he makes a living selling coke, he was actually arrested for trying to stop a cop from beating a street vendor. His mother wants him to meet a girl she's invited to a party. This almost invisible plot suggests a world of attitude. Gary, for instance, who is obviously wasting his life, won't waste an O'Douls because 'it'd be wrong.' Such collateral ironies make these stories simultaneously funny and disheartening."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt


You could touch for a couple of bucks. The window of the booth went up and you stuck out the bills. They might tell you not to pinch, but I was a stroke type anyway. Some guys, I guess they want to leave a mark. Me, I just like the feel.

I went over there on the way to see my sister. There was a lit-up eye with an eyebrow over the door, a guy in front with a change belt, an apron that said Peep City. Peeptown was up the block. They didn’t have an eyebrow over the eye over there.

Why do they make these places so dark? I like to cop tit in the light. Guess I have

Read the full excerpt


  • Sam Lipsyte

  • Sam Lipsyte was born in 1968. He has also written The Subject Steve and Home Land, winner of The Believer book award. He lives in Astoria, Queens.

  • Sam Lipsyte © Robert Reynolds
    Sam Lipsyte