Thanks to Sam Lipsyte, I dodged law school. As a college senior I dropped into his office to fret over my future without a meal plan. Or any type of plan. Was it such a betrayal of the Muse, such artistic treason to draft contracts by day and chapters by night? As an attorney I’d enjoy stability. Respectability. I’d have a career on which—should the whole fiction thing sour—to fall back.
“Without fallbacks,” replied Sam, grave behind his desk, “you can’t fall back.”
This extremist ethos illuminates Sam’s prose itself, as well as his trajectory as a writer. It advocates a commitment to peril less powerfully illustrated by Sam’s junkie days than by his linguistic intemperance. By lines like The Michigan eviscerations began in Manhattan. Sentences that risk everything, riffs somehow both manic and controlled, a concurrence of deepest sadness and levity that should mutually defuse, but that, instead, ignite each other.
Assuming a more removed view, the imperative for progression distinguishes Sam’s entire body of work. After perfecting the Lipstytian style characteristic of his “Gary” tales, Sam largely departs that mode in The Fun Parts. He defies relaxing into the ease of a mastered register—he refuses to fall back—and today privileges HENRY to an excerpt of his latest literary vault forward.
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