Book Recommendation: The Ask by Sam Lipsyte
In Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask, we meet Milo Burke, a development officer for the art department of a snooty and superficial New York university. Times have changed significantly for Burke since he was a pretentious, idealistic, self-indulgent “artist with promise” at the school himself. Despite early aspirations for counterculture greatness, he has settled into a mundane, typical existence. He underperforms in a boring job, he jacks off to the blue light of office-porn in a sexless marriage, and he shelves his ideals with dusty yearbooks.Skip straight to the recipe inspired by this book.
But even the passive can snap, and a bratty trust-fund student causes Burke to do just that. Fired after a passionate outburst, Burke finds himself the unlikely puppet of the university and a long-lost friend from college. Suddenly his world is filled with drama of Hollywood proportions: a drug-addicted, wounded young veteran threatening exposure of his powerful tech-guru of a father, an office temp offering refuge in an abode filled with caged young musicians, a beautiful ambiguously gay animator threatening the sanctity of marriage.
Lipsyte has constructed a world that is simultaneously twisted and bright. Despite a highly cynical depiction of human nature, Burke is a lovable hero. His voice is reminiscent of Louis C.K.—far from wholesome, but with an unwilling hint of optimism. Milo’s absent father makes a surprisingly astute assessment of his character: “I can tell you want to be a bad boy, but you don’t have it in you.” Most of Burke’s associates in the novel do, in fact, have it in them to be bad. Burke tries to fit in with his profane, thuggish circle with occasional bravado and unending sarcasm. But it is his passionate adoration of turkey wraps and Bernie, his 4-year-old son, which are more indicative of his true character. Bernie’s hilariously sweet yet naughty view of the world (he believes a man was sent to jail for drinking juice out of the carton, he loves trolls, and thinks his penis works quite nicely as a joystick) is just how his father would think if not for responsibility.
Ultimately, Lipsyte reminds us that the world can be despicable—full of feudalistic social castes, sell-outs, and infidelity—but that it’s the little things that keep us sane...or, at the very least, keep us laughing. “We are going to eat ice cream and we are going to eat shit. The trick is to use different spoons.”
Source: I borrowed this book from my boyfriend.