Mike Ingram's Reviews > The Ask

The Ask by Sam Lipsyte
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's review
Apr 23, 2012

really liked it

Rounded up from 3.7 stars out of general goodwill toward Sam Lipsyte and deep enjoyment of his particular brand of dark satirical humor. The fact he recently bought me a beer and busted my balls a little about the podcast review I did of his book doesn't hurt.

Reading this made me think back to Nathanel West's Miss Lonelyhearts, a book in which the main character searches for earnest meaning in a world filled with people who have given up said search and descended wholly into irony, becoming, in the book's terms, "machines for making jokes." They make fun of everything, often meanly, because they've given up on earnestness, given up on belief. The Ask strikes me as a book populated almost entirely by those kinds of characters--they're intensely uncomfortable with their own (infrequent) earnest feelings, and their default position is one that's drenched in ironic detachment.

On the one hand, I can identify to some degree with those characters, and that impulse. On the other hand, I kind of missed the presence of at least one character still struggling for earnestness, still engaged in that Miss Lonelyhearts-style fight. I don't know if that's really a criticism of the book so much as a comment on my preferences as a reader?

At any rate, if you're interested, you can listen to me try to figure that out (along with my fellow Barrelhouse editor and friend Tom McAllister) here:

Book Fight Episode 1: Sam Lipsyte's The Ask
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