Thursday, February 24, 2011

Currently Reading: The Ask

Currently Reading is a segment in which I would like to discuss what book(s) I've been putting my nose in recently and hear about all of your current literary adventures, a resource to share about what books have found us for the first time or to muse on old favorites that have recaptured our interest. I have always been introduced to the best reads from close pals, so I hope we can recreate that feeling of sharing here.

With his brutal humor, Sam Lipsyte has become a staple in our household. Venus Drive, The Subject Steve, and Homeland are some of the funniest, most-heartwrenching works I have ever read. The combination of anger, quick wit, and humanity are rarely seen this well balanced and I cannot speak his praises highly enough. They are the type of book that immediately after you finish you want to pick up again. So when I heard that a new Lipsyte novel was soon to be released I was delighted.

(Side note: If you are offended by crude sexual humor, desperate human circumstance and/or strong language Lipsyte is not the author for you.)

In his most recent novel The Ask, Lipsyte once again has me roaring with laughter and embracing the play between sweet and bitter. The protagonist Milo, like most of Lipsyte's anti-heroes, is a sad sack, self-aware enough to be hostile and depressed, but unwilling or unable to do anything about it. In Lipsyte-speak, Milo Burke has "a good shitty job" hired to accrue funding for a New York University where "people paid vast sums of money so their progeny could take hard drugs in suitable company." Milo loses this job, but is offered an interesting way to earn it back. The novel chronicles the journey of self-realization and what seems like quasi-acceptance with dart-like quips and a lot of heart.

This novel is such a nice change of pace from the many mothering and pregnancy books I have been reading over the last several months. (Speaking of, Lipsyte's wife, Ceridwen Morris, co-wrote one of my favorite mother-to-be works, From The Hips and also blogs at Babble's Being Pregnant.) Obviously it is important to be as informed about parenthood as possible and I have loved finding many beautifully written books on the subject, but a romp in loserdom lit is exactly what I needed to mix it up a bit.

"The place resembled a new model prison, or one that had achieved a provisional utopia after principled revolt, or maybe a homeless shelter for people with liberal arts degrees. The cages brought to mind those labs with their death-fuming vents near my college studio. These kids were part of some great experiment. It was maybe the same one in which I'd once been a subject. Unlike me, though, or the guinea pigs and hares, they were happy, or seemed happy, or were blogging about how they seemed happy."
- The Ask by Sam Lipsyte

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