Awesome news: author Sam Lipsyte, with whom I briefly shared the bare-knuckled, two-hand touch gridiron of Astoria Park (until a windowshade tear of my left hamstring forced me into early retirement), is developing a comedy for HBO. If you haven’t read The Ask, or any of his earlier books: Home Land, Venus Drive or The Subject Steve, you are missing out on some bleakly funny, satirically dense comic gold. Set your TiVos now!
Finally read Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask, another novel fronted by an over-educated, under-employed male malcontent who makes shitty decisions and is sparked to real action only from crisis and calamity. That probably reads as if I hated the book, and the odd thing is I didn’t. Far from it. Maybe it speaks to a deep-seated self-loathing that I can enjoy and identify with these somewhat contemptible protagonists like Milo Burke. You know the ones, the spear-side of a lineage traceable to the works of J.D. Salinger, Joseph Heller and John Cheever, among others. I had a similar experience while reading Joe Pernice’s It Feels So Good When I Stop, a novel about running away from commitment and tending to pet obsessions. There’s clearly an accessibility (not to mention self-awareness) to the emotionally-stunted narcissists that populate a majority of the fiction that I’ve been reading lately. It’s almost like they’re my friends. Actually, they are like my friends. Jesus.
When I’m in research mode, I find myself getting into these ruts where all I’m reading is non-fiction. Not that that’s necessarily bad. Doing research for Days Between Driveways prompted me to read Holy Land by D.J. Waldie and the work of Edward T. Hall, but I can’t help feeling guilty when an author whose work I appreciate cranks out several novels while I haven’t been paying attention. Maybe because it acts as a shocking reminder of the transitory nature of time. That, or of how much of my day I waste watching Sportscenter.
But fuck all that. I recently discovered that a novel I became immersed in while on my Hudson Line commute (back in my Metro North days) is still unpublished. Written by J. Robert Lennon and entitled Happyland, it was condensed and serialized in Harper’s Magazine and legend has it that publishers were skittish about how closely the characters resembled certain real-type people, hence it never made it to book-form. I won’t bother to wind myself up into screed mode on the ubiquity of crap such as “fratire” and websites-that-become-books blighting the landscape of contemporary literature, just allow that I’m not the only one who’s patiently waiting to read Happyland as it was intended. Jason Rice is in the midst of a multi-part feature on the novel, complete with an interview with JRL and plenty of background information. Go. Read.