John Arfwedson's Reviews > The Ask

The Ask by Sam Lipsyte
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Nov 08, 2011

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Dark, darker, darkest. The attitude/voice/style here are blacker than the blackest coal mine but not only have all the canaries died...they never existed.
Milo Burke, whose job is to get rich people to donate money to a third rate New York university, is fired and then temporarily "rehired" because of his long-ago college friendship with a megawealthy guy who's thinking of giving. It's "the ask" versus "the give", but of course never that simple.
Lipsyte is witheringly whipsmart and his lash cuts deep into every conceivable aspect of modern American life. His observations are often precise and telling. An example: "She was a generically stunning woman: there were hundreds just like her in this part of the city, perfect storms of perfect bones, monuments to tone and hair technologies. Around here she was almost ordinary but you could still picture small towns where men might bludgeon their friends, their fathers, just to run their sun-cracked lips along her calves."
On every page you gasp, laugh out loud or cringe, but eventually the bleakness of spirit and Milo's human ineffectuality become wearying, rather than compelling.
As satire it is a bracingly up-to-the-minute evocation of today's American heart of darkness but as story it becomes, eventually, just depressing.
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09/08/2016 marked as: read

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