Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask is the book of the week. Found this one from some recent online reviews and thought I would use it to break up the non-fiction rampage I have been on. The Ask is written smartly; Lipsyte is adept with the turn-of-the-phrase. It’s dark–as the major newspaper reviews note, “loss” is the predominant theme. And the relationships described could lead to many levels of analysis. Lipsyte is known for his comedy. Indeed, this book has some great one-liners.
But I didn’t like it. The book read quick enough–I finished it in about a day. I appreciated his writing, and can see why elite critics liked his style. But I didn’t give a damn about ANY of the characters. Not a one. Not even the damn toddler who was really, really odd. The main character? Jeez, what a waste. Generation X grown up and unchanged. In one passage, Lipsyte references a book describing the “original slacker,” from pre-revolutionary days. Obviously, Lipsyte doesn’t believe we have come very far because his main character is just a modern day reincarnate.
Sometimes I read books like this, and I wonder if I’m just missing the joke. Like, maybe if I had some English degree from some liberal arts university, that I’d “get” it and swoon over what Lipsyte is saying about culture. And what a great satirist he is. I wonder if I sat and thought about the book for hours, would I draw conclusions about Purdy and Bernie and Milo and Maura and all the other pathetic characters in the book? I probably could. I used to do that when I took mandatory English classes at my liberal arts university. But you know what? Now, I read for pleasure. And I just don’t give a shit about these people.
Speaking of reading for pleasure, let me explain why I read so much. I read books, book summaries, newspapers, journals, tweets, anything that remotely piques my curiosity– I want to read. Here’s the point: I read because I don’t know everything. Too many people today admit they don’t know everything and then they use that as a convenient excuse to learn nothing. What a cop-out. There is so much knowledge, information, culture…all free…that if you don’t take advantage of it, I think you are disrespecting it.
So even though I thought Lipsyte’s book was average, I wanted to see if I was missing something. So I finished it. And now I move on to my next book. See you in a week.