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.
The Literary Life
“There was something about the invitation that made me wear a jacket,” the novelist Sam Lipsyte deadpanned last Friday night at a magazine launch in an apartment on West 10th Street. Yes, some usual suspects were there—Jeffrey Eugenides, Ben Marcus, editors from The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek, and writers from The New York Times and The New Yorker—but aside from that, this wasn’t your average literary party: the attire was more art-world chic than MFA tweedy.
The American Reader isn’t your average literary magazine. The Princeton grads who run it have barely closed their second issue, and already it is being hailed as the next Paris Review or n+1.
Goodbye to all that
Everybody in New York publishing is very happy for Ira Silverberg. The former literary agent, a fixture in the industry for 26 years, started his new job as literary director at the National Endowment for the Arts earlier this week. And from the day his departure was announced to the day the job began, colleagues and clients have affected determined good cheer.
“I’m sorry for his writers,” said Sarah Burnes, a literary agent and friend. “But I’m happy for the writers of America.”
“It’s the perfect job for him,” said Lorin Stein, editor of The Paris Review, “securing money for worthy projects — especially projects that aren’t on the face of it worthy or obvious.”
But beneath all the breezy congratulations a hint of dread could be detected. Ira Silverberg might have left New York, but was New York ready to lose Ira Silverberg? Especially to Washington D.C.?
Yesterday two New York Times sections declared the night young.
The Book Review was among the sections that managed to avoid the headline of the week, but they seem to be having a hard time staying away from the Lipsyte family. This week Robert Lipsyte, sports writer and YA author, wrote the essay, on children’s Read More
Stars: They're Just Like Us
While The Times wrings its hands, the new blog The Days of Yore offers reassurance for the under-employed youth. The site interviews real-life famous people (Writers! Actors, even!) about their pasts. How did they manage to survive and (eventually) succeed when, as Anne Fadiman puts it, one’s salad days can seem Read More
The Big Four-Oh
Sam Lipsyte’s recent novel The Ask has been almost universally praised by critics. Over the weekend A.O. Scott wrote in The New York Times that the author sums up “the formative experiences of his generation in a voice seemingly characteristic of that overeducated, insecure demographic cohort, who came of age in the late ’80s Read More
If you need to be told what status galleys are, chances are you’ve never had the pleasure of owning one. Or, if you need a reminder, here’s the piece we did last summer. Basically the term refers to an advance reader’s copy of a highly anticipated book that hasn’t been published yet. If you Read More
Emotionally misshapen losers are taking over contemporary literature!
Just kidding. Those guys have been running the show for centuries. But it does seem like every other literary novel that comes out these days has at its center some variation on the classic antihero—a character whose flaws are worn plainly if not Read More
Attention, all of you out there with Adjustment Problems, with Bad People Skills. Bring me your tired, your Poorly Adjusted, all you with Serious Attitude Problems and Persistent Authority Issues. You who don’t play well with others. I won’t say our time has come, but I’m sensing the signs of a culture shift. That’s my Read More
Home Land, by Sam Lipsyte. Picador, 240 pages, $13.
What to call male, unmarried life between the age of 27 and 40? Sunset youth? Still-coming-of-age? These are years of rejiggered aspiration, metabolic slowdown, waning cool.
Boo-hoo. It ain’t prostate cancer. It ain’t Falluja. Does anyone want to read fiction about not-quite-still-young men contemplating Read More