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March 13th, 2013 12:01 am MATTHEW KORFHAGE | Books

Sam Lipsyte, The Fun Parts


Sam Lipsyte chortlingly revels in the warty and the ruined of America, the wounded strivers who live in the world of spit, shit and piss. He’s also an unrepentant self-amuser prone to the literary equivalent of fart jokes. “I bought an energy bar, and as I ate it a great weariness came over me,” he wrote in his novel The Ask. But in that novel about two men who’d failed themselves in unexpected ways, Lipsyte also managed, amid gin-gimlet wit, to allow the pathos of his characters to sneak through.

In The Fun Parts (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 240 pages, $24), Lipsyte’s new short-story collection, he instead sprints along the surface of his characters like a cartoon duck over a lake, troubling the skin but leaving the depths undisturbed. “The Wisdom of the Doulas,” about a male “doulo,” seems designed mostly as a treatment for the first half of a lesser Seth Rogen screwball comedy about stupid men behaving badly, plus possibly traumatizing babies. In its desperation to be funny, it is desperately unfunny. It’s just in a couple stories—“The Climber Room” and parts of “The Republic of Empathy”—that we spend time in the rooms where humans actually live. The best humor resides there; heck, the best dick joke in the book resides there. But for most of the collection, self-amusement comes perilously close to self-abuse.

GOSam Lipsyte appears Wednesday, March 13, at Powell’s City of Books, 1005 W Burnside St. 7:30 pm. Free.

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