Loving Lipsyte

Peter Coviello at Public Books:

There are, I think, three particularly striking things about Hark. First, it is not in the fanatical first-person. It features a multitude of centers of narrative consciousness, and this makes for a story that feels more spacious—less claustrophobically compulsive—than many of Lipsyte’s others. Second, and in direct relation to this, there is a spaciousness in the novel’s regard for what we might call its characters’ practices of belief. Hark himself, for instance, remains something of a well-drawn cipher in the book, a vivid blur, and in Lipsyte’s novel-wide willingness to demure from mercilessness, to withhold satirical fire and thus preserve some unvoided space of mystery about him—this unfunny man who professedly neither gets nor traffics in irony—we can feel a deliberate and, to my mind, telling recalibration of the novelist’s own marrow-deep impulses toward mockery. Page after page, and often through the lens of the hapless Fraz, the most familiar of Lipstye’s quasi-despairing middle-aged men, the novel turns over a new and startling question: What if a killing and all-devouring irony isn’t the way to survive the world?

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