It was snowing, big wet chunks falling everywhere. Morningside Avenue and Morningside Drive are two different things, and this particular afternoon in February was a bad time to realize that, because they’re separated by a park with a steep cliff that drops off sharply, and I was at the bottom of the cliff. I believe I already mentioned the snow. By the time I arrived at the writer Sam Lipsyte’s apartment—40 minutes late—at the higher point of the journey, my clothes were soaked through with cold water and sweat and the sole of my right shoe had fallen off. Mr. Lipsyte answered the door looking surprised. I coughed twice.
This wasn’t the graceful entrance I was hoping for, but there was something appropriate about it; Mr. Lipsyte’s fiction is about lowered expectations. In his 2010 novel The Ask, the middle-aged protagonist, Milo Burke, a failed idealist and former artist who’s recently been fired from his job asking people whose lives worked out better than his to donate money to a university, thinks to himself, “How little I resembled the man I figured for the secret chief of my several selves.” The novel is a comedic masterpiece, but depending on where the reader is in life, it can seem much less funny. Read More