Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Ask by Sam Lipsyte

The first-person narrator has just been fired, and rehired, by a university development office, where he had worked as a fund raised. "The Ask" is what they call their pitches to rich potential donors. Narrator gets reassigned to try to touch his old college buddy Purdy, who is incredibly rich. Meanwhile, narrator's marriage is crumbling. Narrator gets tasked by his rich college friend to shush college friend's illegitimate son, now a returned military veteran with two metal legs. The novel is all voice and no narrative. Sort of an American Martin Amis, but more of an obvious one-lining jokester.

All that said, what a voice:

Child care was like everything else. You got what you paid for, and your child paid for what you could not pay for.

You really had to hustle to recruit the right people to prop up your delusions, but the moment somebody broke ranks, or just broke for a protein shake, the whole deal teetered.

We were like the Frank family in their Dutch attic, but with email.

Why was I such a diseased fuck? It had to be society's fault. I loved people, all people, except for the ones with money and free time.

I dozed off worried I had truly unhooked myself from the apparatus of okay.

Never let them see you sweat, countless bastards tell us, just to see us sweat.

Sayuri's family moved back to Japan soon after, but from then on, whenever I inserted my penis in her hard little hand, I always made sure to insert the gray pixelated dot over it, like they did in Japanese porn. Honor is important to every culture.

"Hell, honey," said Claudia. "I murdered your father when you needed him most. I can take a few impotent barbs from my only son."

The man's hands looked ruined, though, rheumatoid, nicked and pinched by gruesome machinery. I'd done many odd jobs in my life, but hardly any heavy lifting. I stared at my own hands, soft, expressive things, gifted, even, like specially bred, lovingly shaved gerbils.

"But don't get me wrong. I'm all for capital punishment. I'm a huge death penalty guy. I like everything about it. And don't tell me how it's more expensive to the taxpayer than life sentences. Because if you ask me, we should pony up a little more. We should feel the cost of our ritual, revel in it. It was probably a drain on the Aztec economy to capture and drug all those people and carve out their living hearts, but are you going to tell me it wasn't worth it? Yes, sir, the death penalty is where it's at. Is there a chance innocent people die? I should fuckin hope so! Innocent people die constantly in this world. Why should things be better for those scumbags in lockdown?"

(on being an artist) "So, like I always say, it all comes down to how much you need to inflict yourself on the world. You're good enough. If you kiss the right ass, you could certainly make a career.

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