At Sam Lipsyte's last Portland reading, there were maybe 15 people in the audience. It was a frigging travesty. The man is one of the funniest writers working today. Remember how excited we were for George Saunders a couple weeks ago? I'm going to need to see at least a fraction of that excitement for Lipsyte, who's reading from his new collection The Fun Stuff at the downtown Powell's next Wednesday, March 13.
Vulture yesterday posed the question: "Has the world finally caught up with post-punk author Sam Lipsyte?" What I took away from cursorily skimming that article on the bus this morning is that Lipsyte is a schlubby loser who writes for schlubby losers everywhere, and that we are now a whole society of schlubby losers, thanks to wars and recession and rich people having all of the money. Which means we can all, at last, appreciate Sam Lipsyte.
I don't particularly want to think about what it says about me that I have been enjoying Lipsyte's work for years. Here's an interview I did with him back in 2010, when he was touring on his great novel The Ask, and here is a part of that interview that I like a lot:
Your humor is pretty cutting and it seems like just about every subject is fair game—obviously child molestation is on the table… the Holocaust… Is anything off limits?
I haven’t hit it yet. But I don’t sit down and say, “Wow, I’m going to be so damn shocking right now.” This is just the stuff that bubbles up. Sentences start to veer toward these perhaps risky areas of discussion, and then I like to kind of play in the dangerous area, in the high-voltage zone. I think that what’s off limits is just being cruel for the sake of cruelty. What’s off limits is not presenting characters with as much dimensionality as you can. So the characters and the narrators can talk about anything, I don’t really try to censor that, but I want it to be coming from some place organic in the work.
It’s about considering who the victims are of your humor. And the number one victim should be yourself.
See? He's hilarious, but he's kind and empathetic, too! So c'mon: Wednesday, March 13. Powell's City of Books. You know where it is. 7:30 pm. See you there?