Thursday, 16 December 2010

The Subject Steve

Sam Lipsyte

I took a gamble on this novel, having never heard of it or its author before, mostly because of the Toby Litt quote on the front. Which reminds me, I really need to get my hands on another Toby Litt novel soon.

The Subject Steve is funny. That's basically it. It's funny in a clever, lippy, attitudinal American way. And that's a good thing, of course. But this flippancy, a quality I am more than a little acquainted with, goes a little to deep for me.

It's not just in the dialogue, and it's not just in the prose; it's not just the narrator who is flippant, or the characters: It's the author as well. The plots and events and situations of the novel are played with fairly fast and not a little loose. I can understand why the quotees on the back of the book see this as a good thing, but it was a little lost on me. That's not where I want my flippancy.

All my favourite, funniest writers are deadly serious. Vonnegut jokes inbetween mourning mankind and loving them. Pratchett isn't joking when he gets excited by the power of stories or angry at the power of people. Evelyn Waugh was angrier yet. Even Wodehouse, the archetypal please-don't-take-me-seriously, plotted most rigorously, demanded the most consistent, believably-motivated characters.

That said, I did enjoy the high creativity in The Subject Steve, and it was funny everwhere it tried to be. It just wasn't quite the novel I wanted to read. If I come across another of Lipsyte's titles--there was a new one out this year, apparently--I will investigate it thoroughly. If he's still funny, that's okay, but hopefully he'll be serious as well.

1 comment:

  1. Another fine review of a book I hadn't heard about. You're on a roll!