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Esquire
Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005


 

Home Land

by Sam Lipsyte

A Novel for Non-Readers

A review by Benjamin Alsup

I'm sorry if I'm the last dork to show up at the party and I'm telling you things you already know. I don't know Sam Lipsyte at all. I don't know anybody who knows Sam Lipsyte at all. But on a recent Sunday morning I picked up his novel Home Land, and then I spent the next 12 hours reading it. It's funny and sad and cruel and awful. It makes David Sedaris seem a little lightweight. It makes David Foster Wallace seem a little out of touch. It makes Rick Moody seem, well, unnecessarily Moody. It makes one laugh out loud while pondering the ways in which all lives, invariably, go wrong.

Home Land is difficult to summarize. In a series of dispatches to his high school alumni bulletin board, Lewis Miner (aka Teabag) records the comic tragedies and minor victories of a life that "has not panned out": His mother dies too young, his girlfriend leaves him, and he tries to pay the rent. Admittedly, it's not much of a life, and in the hands of another writer, it might not make for much of a book. But Lipsyte writes the way you wish you could talk. He's smart without pretense. He's funny when the situation most calls for tears. And in Miner, he's found the guy who sat in the back of your English class who you suspected was either really stoned or really brilliant. It turns out that he's both.

But here's the thing: Home Land has got a lot stacked against it. It's out only in paperback. And its chances of disappearing are probably large. And that would be too sad and cruel and awful to qualify as funny, because Home Land is the kind of book that gets passed around, underlined, dog-eared. It's the kind of book you give to the guy who says he doesn't like books.


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