Columbia University School of the Arts Writing Program Professor Sam Lipsyte’s third book “The Ask” was published in March 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
The book received tremendous praise from critics, including raves in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, Vanity Fair and TIME, among dozens of others.
In the novel, Milo Burke, a development officer at a third-tier university, has “not been developing”: after a run-in with a well-connected undergrad, he finds himself among the burgeoning class of the newly unemployed. Grasping after odd jobs to support his wife and child, Milo is offered one last chance by his former employer: he must reel in a potential donor—a major “ask”—who, mysteriously, has requested Milo’s involvement. But it turns out that the ask is Milo’s sinister college classmate Purdy Stuart. And the “give” won’t come cheap. “The Ask” probes many themes—or, perhaps, anxieties—including work, war, sex, class, child rearing, romantic comedies, Benjamin Franklin, cooking shows on death row, and the eroticization of chicken wire.
Lipstye was born in 1968. He is the author of the story collection “Venus Drive”(named one of the top twenty-five books of its year by the Voice Literary Supplement) and two novels: “The Subject Steve” and “Home Land,” which was a New York TimesNotable Book and received the first annual Believer Book Award. He lives in New York.
Praise for “The Ask”
“If you’ve heard anything about Sam Lipsyte, you’ve probably heard that he’s funny. Scabrously, deliriously, piss-yourself funny (his characters would no doubt find a dirtier, and funnier, way of putting it), drawing audible snorts even from the kind of people, such as the people in his novels, who are way too cool to laugh out loud . . . Lipsyte’s prose arrows fly with gloriously weird spin, tracing punch-drunk curlicues before hitting their marks—or landing in some weird alternate.”
—Jennifer Schuessler, The New York Review of Books
“Lipsyte shakes his comic cocktail of sarcasm and bitter impotence to eloquent effect: briefcases on wheels are “luggage for people not going anywhere,” and a Manhattan salad bar consists of “go-goo for the regular folk, these lumpy lumpen lunches.” Milo is repulsive, hilarious, and devastatingly self-aware, but it is his country that is Lipsyte’s real subject.”
—The New Yorker
“So let’s read Lipsyte and rejoice; let’s celebrate the laugh-producing Milo Burkes who are all too rarely brought to us by brave and bitter men—let’s celebrate the canny, well-educated yet perpetually failing furtive Internet onanists, the dark, half-crippled, doughnut-gobbling man-apes of the literary world, who cast their lumpen shadows across the rest of us. These are the kind of unlikeable, lovable protagonists we miss; these are the self-loathing, mediocre secret geniuses who can set our people free.”
—Lydia Millet, The New York Times Book Review