A Year in Reading: Saïd Sayrafiezadeh

December 6, 2013 | 3 books mentioned 1 2 min read

coverThe Fun Parts by Sam Lipsyte: For the last decade, Sam Lipsyte has very slyly become one of the leading deep-sea explorers of our contemporary American society. I won’t be giving much away if I tell you that what he has so far surfaced to report back to us hasn’t been very pretty. The Fun Parts, book five in Mr. Lipsyte’s opus, which includes The Ask and Home Land, continues the troubling dispatches from beneath. This collection of stories, several originally appearing in The New Yorker, are as subversive, absurd, and hilarious as his earlier work. Witness, for instance, how our fellow citizens wrestle with their weight, their families, their jobs as, say, a (male) doula. “Classic American story,” Mr. Lipsyte begins one story, “I was out of money and people I could ask for money.” You know this won’t end well, but you’ll enjoy getting there. Mr. Lipsyte has mastered the art of fusing, within one sentence, pathos and hilarity. The effect on the reader is generally a guilty ghoulish humor — that is if they’re able to avoid looking in the mirror. In “The Republic of Empathy,” a tale about a man being hounded to have a second child, Mr. Lipsyte writes, “That night, I dreamed I had another son, a bigger one, and he punched me in the neck and I stumbled off the edge of a skyscraper. I fell through the air. I could also feel myself climbing out of the dream.” This might be as good a way as any to sum up our American century thus far.

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is the author, most recently, of the short story collection, Brief Encounters with the Enemy, and the critically acclaimed memoir When Skateboards Will Be Free. His stories and personal essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Granta, McSweeney’s, The New York Times, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and a fiction fellowship from the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. He lives in New York City and teaches creative writing at New York University where he won a 2013 Outstanding Teaching Award.

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