Monday, October 13, 2014

Review: "The Subject Steve" by Sam Lipsyte

After reading all three of Sam Lipsyte’s novels, I find it safe to declare myself as not being a fan of his. While his breakthrough novel The Ask and Home Land failed to deliver anything but medium quality literary experiences, his first novel, The Subject Steve really doesn’t deliver on the hype that came with Lipsyte when The Ask came out a few years ago. I can see the appeal that he brings though. He is a great humorist, with good timing and clever turns of phrase that had me chuckling in between moments of not enjoying myself. But I never feel invested in much that he writes, despite some very cool setups in all of his novels, the one in Home Land getting me interested in him. But Lipsyte just stretches these ideas with very little mileage to the breaking point, crafting overstuffed, 300- page novels out of something that should have been a novella at best. Lipsyte always comes out swinging, with a premise that I’m not embarrassed to say is quite funny. A sick man, who is called Steve in the book, is dying of something. He is has no real symptoms, feels okay, and is reasonably healthy, but he knows this disease will kill him. Doctors end up researching him, turning something he takes seriously into a huge joke that everyone involved will became famous for. Essentially, Steve is dying of boredom. Most of the scenes on their own are quite good, like the section taking place in a nightmarish commune that would feel at home in The Wicker Man. But they never form something whole; instead, the book is filled with one-note characters, like Steve’s daughter who is too smart for her age, and a little too annoying, and countless people Steve meets as he heads toward his inevitable end being painfully interchangeable. If you want to read a strictly “funny” book, this will do, but you may feel as mysteriously empty as Steve himself.

Rating: 3/5

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