Friday, February 26, 2010

Performative sentences

At Bookforum, Jim Shepard reviews Sam Lipsyte's superb new novel The Ask:
Milo's world disappoints him even more, though, and happily for us, he's the scourge of the upwardly mobile everywhere. Lipsyte provides him with firebombing rants about everything from alternative day cares ("They had a smug ideological tinge about them, a minor Red Brigades vibe") to perhaps that fattest of sitting ducks: the self-importance of the hypereducated (his art school classmate won the student prize "for shitting on a Rand McNally atlas to interrogate hegemony"). None of this captures the performative brio of Lipsyte's sentences, which exhilarate by providing a sense of just what's possible when it comes to unbridled thought, unbridled meaning not only startlingly associative but transgressive as well. A paternal pessimist, Milo assesses his young son's prospects: "It was hard to imagine the boy completing kindergarten, remarkably easy to picture him in a tangle of fish knives and sailor cock under some rot-soft pier." There's a surreal giddiness to the resourcefulness of the perversity here, in the face of failure's crushing banality, as if all the mastery unmanageable in life is on display in this secret life: these utterly performative messages in a bottle to the reader.

1 comment:

  1. I heard him read part of this novel a few months ago and I've been waiting to get my hands on it. Ed Park says that it's great, which is a good enough recommendation for me.