The Ask

The Ask

Book - 2010
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A searing, beautiful, and deeply comic novel by a young American master

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.

Probing 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, Sam Lipsyte's The Ask is a burst of genius by an author who has already demonstrated that the truly provocative and important fictions are often the funniest ones.

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780374298913
Branch Call Number: FIC Lips
Characteristics: 296 p. ; 22 cm

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JimLoter
Jan 24, 2014

A bleak, sometimes funny, oftentimes painful novel about a man who is regarded and regards himself as a failure at life. After losing his job as a development officer for a third-tier arts college, the pathetic, cuckolded Milo Burke is given one shot at redemption. If he can land a big "give" from his former college buddy, the wealthy Purdy Stuart, he may be able to get his life back on track.

This is less a novel about "the ask" itself, and more about the stories that Milo repeats to himself, in various forms, about his own unworthiness and shame as a failed artist, failed professional, failed husband, and failing father. Milo fails to live up to even the most banal expectations of himself, which just feeds the cycle that sucks his esteem right out of him. After reconnecting with Purdy, the old demons come out of their various closets to haunt him again - the failed relationships, missed opportunities, and years wasted in drug and alcohol stupors. It is all frightfully well-written with paragraphs that made me go back and read them a second time to see if I could unlock the secret to the effect the prose had on me.

I can see how critics of the book may lose patience with yet another tale of a middle class, middle-aged white man going through a mid-life crisis, but I felt a sad, sick, and twisted connection to Milo ... maybe because I'm the target demographic. A scene in which Milo stands before the endless variety of foods at a food-by-the-pound deli and describes how he wants to be the kind of guy who can zealously choose and combine a smorgasbord-type meal, then loses his nerve and grabs his usual safe, standby turkey wrap actually brought a tear of empathy to my eye.

debwalker Dec 08, 2010

Satirizing America after the meltdown.

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mingkangchen
Dec 19, 2010

mingkangchen thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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