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Sam Lipsyte

The Ask

Sam Lipsyte The Ask
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Milo Burke, a development officer at a third-tier university, has “not been developing”: after a run-in with a well-connected undergrad, he finds himself among the burgeoning class of the newly unemployed. Grasping after odd jobs to support his wife and child, Milo is offered one last chance by his former employer: he must reel in a potential donor—a major “ask”—who, mysteriously, has requested Milo’s involvement. But it turns out that the ask is Milo’s sinister college classmate Purdy Stuart. And the “give” won’t come cheap. Probing many themes— or, perhaps, anxieties—including work, war, sex, class, child rearing, romantic comedies, Benjamin Franklin, cooking shows on death row, and the eroticization of chicken wire, 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.

Praise for The Ask

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

So let’s read Lipsyte and rejoice; let’s celebrate the laugh-producing Milo Burkes who are all too rarely brought to us by brave and bitter men—let’s celebrate the canny, well-educated yet perpetually failing furtive Internet onanists, the dark, half-crippled, doughnut-gobbling man-apes of the literary world, who cast their lumpen shadows across the rest of us. These are the kind of unlikeable, lovable protagonists we miss; these are the self-loathing, mediocre secret geniuses who can set our people free.” Lydia Millet, The New York Times Book Review

“[The Ask] is a biting, bilious and often brilliant book . . . It started, for me, as a comic, bad-boy outing on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. It concludes somewhere much darker and richer than a theme park. ‘Heavens to Betsy,’ I murmured when I finished. ‘What a book.’” Karen Long, The Plain Dealer

“Lipsyte’s brand of absurdity is deeply rooted in the now. The recession, text messaging, reality TVall 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 riffs on fatherhood, work, and sex in Sam Lipsyte’s unsparingly comic novel The Ask explode like a string of firecrackers—so funny you might lose an eye.” Vanity Fair

It’s customary for radically sardonic, corrosively funny writers to put in time as mere cult icons, but enough already: everybody should read Sam Lipsyte.TIME

One of the greatest black-humorists alive, Lipsyte has gone unnoticed for far too long. With his third novel, about the painfully hilarious adventures of a failed painter in a dead-end job, he should finally get the acclaim he deserves.” —Details

[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

It’s not easy to write a really funny book about such anxiety-producing topics as love, death, failure and our currently terrifying economy, but that’s exactly what Sam Lipsyte has accomplished with his terrific new novel, The Ask . . . This novel isn’t afraid to show the darker side of life, but while The Ask can be a bone-chilling read, it somehow still makes you laugh out loud.The Observer’s Very Short List

“If you're the sort of person who underlines amusing or thought-provoking lines in books, you best gird yourself, as Lipsyte is an inexhaustible fount of eloquent prurience, deftly mingling high- and low-mindedness.” —Rob Harvilla, Village Voice

“With this novel, Mr. Lipsyte has proven himself to be one of the most unapologetic voices of contemporary literature. He mines the sexual frustration of Philip Roth, combines it with the paranoia of Don DeLillo and fills the space in between with a cast of characters as absurd and enigmatic as anything in a Thomas Pynchon novel . . . The Ask is a hilarious book about failure; a scathing unhappy comedy obsessed with a culture that’s obsessed with obsessions.”Michael Miller, The New York Observer

“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&


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