Scott's Reviews > The Ask

The Ask by Sam Lipsyte
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's review
Apr 30, 10

bookshelves: 2010, adult-books, first-half-of-2010, older-teens, very-strange
Read from April 21 to 30, 2010

Before I started reading The Ask I was excited. But from the first sentence I knew I was in for a long haul, "America, said Horace, the office temp, was a run-down and demented pimp." It's kind of funny, but it's trying so hard to be funny and clever. That's the whole book. Wordplay on top of wordplay on top of cleverness on top of cleverness. It all seems intentional. Lipsyte knows he's being super clever, and because he's aware of it, we should be aware of it too, which is supposed to make me hate it less. But I didn't hate it. I grew tired of it quickly. Still, I am not one to give up on books, and this one had some hilarious stuff, "My outburst was deemed hate speech, which called for immediate dismissal. I could hardly argue with them. I think it probably was hate speech. I really fucking hated that girl." LOL! So I kept pushing forward, impressed by the verbal run around, but only in the vast volumes (alliteration intended.) Then, every now and then, Lipsyte would offer some heartbreaking, stunning insight (rhyme not intended that's why I put two adjectives.) This one hit me pretty hard: "She was from the people who kept everything. I was from the people who rented everything for brief amounts of time."

But it never became more than a 3 star book for me. Except for the brief moment when it veered into the post-modern, and the main character Milo questioned if anyone would ever read a book about him. That made me laugh too. I wondered why I had followed Milo for so long. He's a tool. He's a good father, but he's also a perv and louse. He's not unlikable, but I never found myself rooting for him.

Then there's the big "satire" tag, which most people who like this book will toss around all willy-nilly. However, I ask, what is Lipsyte satirizing? Rich people? Schlubs? Our society? It's never quite clear. And it's never sharp or pointed enough to actual get any lasting digs, nor is it subtle enough to make me think about what may have been satirized.

Fine. Tell me I don't get it. But I didn't, and that is a flaw of the book and the author. I shouldn't have to work to figure out their vision so that I "get it." It's not compelling enough, or well-written enough for me to care.
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Reading Progress

04/26/2010 page 60
20.27% "Unique. But not always in a good way. Still it's hilarious and sometimes extremely poignant."
04/29/2010 page 200
67.57% "I wonder if other people think this is Juno for the middle-aged. It knows it's clever. It's tightly packed with "clever." But it's too much."
04/29/2010 page 218
73.65% "It's just tiring me out. I'm sure that's true for a lot of people though."

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