by Sam Lipsyte
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There's probably not a living American writer who has so comprehensively mined the comic possibilities of that particular anguished, hapless combination of the overeducated and the underachieving as Sam Lipsyte. Against all odds, his heroes refuse to succeed, and they and we are rewarded with the endlessly entertaining spectacle of their nonstop humiliation.
The Ask features Milo Burke—leave it to Lipsyte to hybridize Joseph Heller's monster of systematized selfishness with the eighteenth-century humanist—of "the House of Wanker," whose life hasn't panned out, by which I mean he's both spectator and spear carrier in the theater of his own economic and spiritual collapse. Milo's a fund-raiser for the arts program at a third-tier institution he calls "the Mediocre University at New York City." While his colleagues
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