by Sam Lipsyte
Milo Burke, the middle-aged, failed artist protagonist of Sam Lipsyte’s new novel, is the kind of New Yorker you like to visit but don’t want to live with. For the first 75 pages of The Ask, I had to ask myself if I really wanted to spend the next 225 pages with the class smartass that is Burke. Sure, Milo is often hilarious (think Groucho Marx let loose in a diversity-training class), but geez, too much of that can send you screaming to the wheat fields of Kansas.
But gradually, inexorably, Lipsyte adds substance to his story. There’s more to Milo than his dead-end job at a “mediocre” college fundraising office, and his interactions with his drifting wife, an amputee Iraq war vet, and a rich friend from his college past transform The Ask from mere screwball ranting into something deeper and more satisfying.
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