Sam Lipsyte (facebook) is a writer whose writings have appeared in a wide array of publications including Slate, The Washington Post, GQ, Esquire and Playboy. Hailed for his creative use of language and black humor, Lipsyte was in Minnesota recently as part of a tour for the paperback release of his 2010 novel The Ask (Amazon; NYT’s book review). Though I had not actually read much of his work (or more specifically: any) I happened to be in town, still high from meeting Michio Kaku, and thought I would stop by. Having read some reviews of his latest book, he seemed like an interesting enough guy to shamelessly exploit for a cheap website.
Photo Credit: Ethan Hill (Also, he does not look nearly this sour in person).
When I attend most book readings, I’ll admit that more often than not I have failed to read much of the author’s work. Often, as an aspiring writer, I’m more interesting in the conversations that follow when one gets an opportunity to really pick the person’s brain and learn more about the writing process and Leviathan-nature of the publishing industry. (For anyone considering adopting the title of “published author” I would strongly encourage you to find someone on a tour so that they may try to convince you otherwise).
Finding him at a Magers and Quinn Booksellers event, when he took to the podium before a small crowd of 15 to 20, he presented himself as a fairly straightforward guy (like the kind of guy who would say, without a long introduction, “I’m just going to read a few lines and then call it a night”) Also, he was not the kind of guy willing to sell his book short: “[The Ask is] a book about how shitty life is and how it only gets shittier.”
He had my attention.
Being a big Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk fan this was sure to be right up my alley. And now that I have started by God I’ll be damned if Details Magazine isn’t right when they say that “With his third novel, about the painfully hilarious adventures of a failed painter in a dead-end job, he should finally get the acclaim he deserves.” Honestly, it’s pretty fucking good, and the fact that I do not expect to pick up any homework until I’ve reached the back cover should be evidence enough for this claim. If you have time on your hand, Deadspin.com has the first chapter of the book online (if anyone is seriously interested in reading it, I’d be happy to lend my copy).
At the risk of being sued for copyright infringement, I’ll post a brief excerpt I came across yesterday since I think it effectively captures Lipsyte’s sense of humor:
“… I’m all for capital punishment. I’m a huge death penalty guy. I like everything about it. And don’t tell me how it’s more expensive to the taxpayer than life sentences. Because if you ask me, we should pony up a little more. We should feel the cost of our ritual, revel in it. It was probably a drain on the Aztec economy to capture and drug all those people and carve out their living hearts, but are you going to tell me it wasn’t worth it? Yes, sir, the death penalty is where it’s at. Is there a chance innocent people die? I should fucking hope so! Innocent people die constantly in this world. Why should things be better for those scumbags in lockdown?”
“But you said they were innocent.”
“Innocent? Please. No thanks, buddy. Keep that knee-jerk liberal crap on your side of the aisle. I’m not ashamed of the sacrifice a balls-out civilization must make to survive ….” The Ask, p. 82-83.
So it was with only mild surprise that, when I made the ask, he looked confused behind his Coke-bottle glasses, a smile stretching across his face. I, frankly, did not expect any hesitance on his part since I was under the assumption that he was asked this question fairly frequently. I asked again.
“Well … Well, I guess … so.”
What followed would, in retrospect, be a clear sign that he is certainly someone who should not be drawing giraffes.
Almost forgetting that this was an actual book signing (as was almost the case with T.C. Boyle), I presented my copy of his book in which I can only assume is an official endorsement for PrettyAwfulGiraffes.com:
"To Josh, Good ask with the giraffe thing. Sam Lipsyte"