From the author of Home Land and Venus Drive comes Sam Lipsyte's searing, beautiful, and deeply comic novel, The Ask.
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
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, Sam Lipsyte's The Ask is a burst of genius by an author who has already demonstrated that the truly provocative and important fictions are often the funniest ones.
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.
Sam Lipsyte is brilliant!
I listened to his short story, THE WORM IN PHILLY, on the Paris Review Podcast awhile ago.
Instantly purchased this book. This expense has been nothing, but an asset. Mr. Lipsyte's approach to writing is clever and his content does not disappoint.