Giving America Some Lip

From the Playboy Blog, 1/22/07


I first latched on to Sam Lipsyte’s fiction when I read “The Gunderson Prophecy,” a farcical tale of a pseudo-prophet and his apocalyptic visions, in our November issue. When I saw that he was reading new work at Russian Samovar, a chic vodka bar and restaurant just blocks from our office, I had to check it out. 

Lipsyte read from an untitled work in progress, or as he aptly called it “a work in egress.” Words seemed to flood out of him uninhibited, and he rarely stopped to take a breath. Yet if you were on your toes and kept up with him, you could see the basic truths beneath his whirlwind rant. Either way you laughed your head off.

The narrator of the story is a schlub working in development for a school he likes to call “The Mediocre University in the City of New York.” It’s not an ideal job, staffed by “crack babies” and “rectum ticklers,” but when he cracks and bawls out a pompous art major he loses his paycheck and any vestige of sanity in his life. Along the way, Lipsyte blasphemes countless targets, from U.S. foreign policy to spoiled rich kids to video games. The result is a hilarious and frightening picture of a society that, like the main character, is struggling to keep afloat. And Lipsyte accomplishes all this while the narrator is merely waiting in line at the post office or sitting in a donut shop.

Lipsyte’s hapless hero admits that he’s inherited his “grandmother’s nutcake gene.” It’s clear that Lipsyte has that chromosome in abundance. But his madness makes for wickedly entertaining stories that keep your mind and your sense of humor sharp. Check out his latest novel, Home Land, one of the New York Times’s notable books of 2005.

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