A funny, sad, off-kilter collection of stories from a rising American star of satire. 'People like to call them ashes but it feels more like a couple of rocks, especially if you hold the whole thing in your hands, or swing it, as I do, on occasion, bolo-style from the sack cord. I'm still not sure why I do this, but it feels good, standing there in the dining room, windmilling my mother around.' From the peep palaces of Times Square to the cubicles of corporate America, 'Venus Drive' takes us away from the toothpaste-white gleam of American life, and leads us down an altogether darker, comic road on the seedy side of town. Pot-dazed revolutionaries, summer-camp sadists, and babysitters with an eye for erotic humiliation all make themselves known in this crafty, streetwise new collection from the acclaimed author of 'The Subject Steve'. At once shocking, inventive and funny, these stories confirm Sam Lipsyte's place amongst the very brightest -- and darkest -- talents of American fiction.
Sam Lipsyte's Venus Drive is tightly wound in more ways than one. Peopled by walking-wounded hipsters with crummy jobs, drug fiends in varied stages of addiction, and kids sent away to summer camp who act on their worst instincts, these sharply written short stories crackle with crafty, streetwise dialogue. Their first-person narratives place engaging, unstable people into seedy yet believable situations in a way that might remind the reader of Denis Johnson, Robert Stone, or Lynne Tillman. Perspectives vary from tale to tale, but these are characters engaged in compulsive pursuits who find themselves pushed to limits they didn't know they had. At his best, Lipsyte writes the way Miles Davis played trumpet--with a few lines, and some silence, he makes everything cohere. One of the gifts of this debut collection is its unsentimentality; the various vignettes come together to show us that "life on the edge" is uncannily similar to any other lifestyle choice. For some, fantasy and reality are just different channels on the same TV set. --Mike McGonigal