Sam Lipsyte’s new book The Ask is a riotous, devilish look at a middle-aged slacker trying to pull his life back together. Clearly, we loved it, and while interviewing him, sheepishly (and nerdily) quoted Lolita to describe his prose style: we told him it’s like reading a “lavish epileptic fit.” How else can you describe language that manages to be nasty, hilarious, and tender all at once — and often in exuberant bursts? That’s what we thought.
The novel also transmits a very strong sense of place, so this past weekend, Sam agreed to take us on a walking tour of his old neighborhood in Astoria (he now teaches at Columbia and lives on the Upper West Side), which functions as the setting for much of the book, and the place in which Milo (the aforementioned slacker) lives. Discussed on the way: Hitler-loving Czechs, Mary Karr, awkward sex, Barry Hannah, the hostile takeover of land by the “me’s,” Ben Marcus, epic beer gardens, unironic hipsters, Padgett Powell, ways to make money in the park, Keith Gessen, pickup football, George Saunders, the boring shit, and Deb Olin Unferth, among other things. Hit the pavement after the jump. … Read More