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The Fun Parts Paperback – 2 Jan 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Granta (2 Jan. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847088058
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847088055
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 237,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

I'd wholeheartedly direct you towards this sour and scintillating new collection of short stories. ... The dialogue constantly sparkles and unsettles, with strange seismic shifts going on beneath the surface of the prose. You won't read finer sentences this year. --Scotland on Sunday

Lipsyte is most commonly praised for his hilarious flights of fancy, but he is also a precise and perceptive observer, capable of impaling a lifestyle with one sparse aside. --The Observer

The Fun Parts is an idiosyncratic, hyperactively rendered collection where words and ideas collide to dazzling effect. It's a no-holds-barred, dementedly imaginative assemblage of the extremes of contemporary life. ... Lipsyte is a funny and merciless writer with a mean eye for oddities and, where his relentless interplay of linguistic ferocity and oddball narrative can be wearing at novel length, in short-form fiction it's sharp and deeply, blackly funny. --Metro

Its atmosphere is cute, spry and bizarre. ... The best are less otherworldly. It is funny because it is true to what is sometimes missing in all the wisecracks, one-liners, grotesques and gussied-up endings elsewhere life. --The Sunday Times

Clever enough to pack his tales with a profusion of funny lines, Lipsyte's humane view of the world steers him away from the glibness that would have made this book far less palatable. --Herald

Lipsyte spins out his lines at a breakneck clip, the riffs come thick and fast, and the gags are sprayed on with a machine gun. He is a detail-fiend, a maximalist, and he possesses an expansive linguistic imagination that can satisfy his leanings. If you're a reader like me, this can make for a whole lot of fun. --Kevin Barry, Guardian

Inventive, daring, and wildly funny --Times Literary Supplement

The Fun Parts was the best work of fiction by an American author to be published in 2013. The book is supersaturated with humor, depth, acuity, pain, a warped sense of grace, and the rolling thunder of Lipsyte's matchless prose. If you've got time for one more book before 2013 is out, make it this one. And if not, well, there's always next year. --'Book of the Year', Vice magazine

Lipsyte's hysterical prose is a bawdy objection to the pared-back austerity more typical of the current American scene. He is a detail fiend, a maximalist who possesses an expansive linguistic imagination that can satisfy his leanings. In The Fun Parts, you'll encounter a writer's vision that is slant but acute. --Paperback review, Guardian

'A horrible world beautifully pinned down' **** --Scotsman

'Subversive and funny and full of heart' --'Shelfies: Top 6 books' chosen by Tom Barbash, author of Stay Up With Me, in the Independent Magazine

About the Author

SAM LIPSYTE was born in 1968. He is the author of the short story collection Venus Drive and three novels: The Subject Steve, Home Land, and The Ask, which was a New York Times Notable Book. He teaches at Columbia University in New York.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso' on 11 July 2013
Format: Paperback
Sam Lipsyte's crisp, crunchy prose is the kind of serio-comic that makes me go all weak at the knees. I don't do plot summary - anyway, these are short stories. Deniers, #3 (of 13) and unfunny, mainly, is word perfect. You can either wolf this down, as I imagine most time-pressed (or 'normal') people will do, or slowly savour the exquisitely wrought phrasing, as I'm doing; I'm only on page 58 and the arresting phrase 'Holocaust support group' (following on from 'cardio ballet'). Can Lipsyte's novels be this good? 'Endorphins filled her floodplains.' Jonathan D Lippincott's elegantly muted beige cover for the paperback is a joy (though the dark, elegant hardback cover isn't half bad either)

September
I'm done. If it was my best fiction pick since Love in Infant Monkeys and You're an Animal, Viskovitz, that still leaves it trailing. The Jewish Raymond Chandler? It's not a bad designation; I'd hoped for more. I've a horrible feeling Martin Amis will have sung this book's praises (it's a little dark for Zadie) and if you find the word douchebaggery remotely amusing perhaps you will too. You could say Lipsyte essays a range of registers; unfortunately this extends all too readily to his default, sophomore mode. '[T]hose morose, slightly chippy bots I'd noticed at the refectory whenever I'd rolled in for some transitional pancakes after a night of self-bludgeoning'; reminds me of DFW at his worst. When writing in the first person Lipsyte can equally slip into Chandlerese stand-up ('Ypsilanti was easy to leave. I wasn't from there') and as we read on we acquire a growing dependence on drugs as plot drivers, even in Deniers, though that at least sports a likeable character in the person of Tovah.
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By PP Prong on 21 May 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One Guardian reviewer said of these stories that 'the riffs come thick and fast, and the gags are sprayed on with a machine gun.' All that is true: the stories are funny, the observations clever and the language incessantly inventive. In some ways, though, the stylistic pace and density of the stories is a little like a Hollywood action blockbuster where all is going at a credible, jaw-dropping jog until things speed up and finally become plain silly. You have to suspend your disbelief. You have to submit yourself to the absurdities. Then his narrative style can be addictive.

Lipsyte's characters are distilled NYC weirdness, and his plots atuned brilliantly to the grotesque and over-blown pretensions of middle class loft living. 'The Climber Room' and 'The Wisdom of the Doulas' are marvellous examples of this. But orientation was sometimes hard for me in a couple of the stories, particularly 'Peasley' and 'The Real-Ass Jumbo', as if the author had just wanted to be obscure, or offer up some piece of crudely stitched creative meditation. But I think Lipsyte's brain, his contemporary world of thought, is possibly a year or two ahead of mine. 'Keep up, dopey', I kept feeling his text telling me. And I did do my best to keep up right until the end. The stories are a very rich meal, and probably best tackled with long, reflective breaks. But if you make it through them all you certainly couldn't be accused of being a lazy reader, and could probably consider yourself hip.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Keizu on 15 Jun. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
These stories have characters straight from Springsteen songs who dream the dream, but just can't hack it in a culture that makes them believe anything's possible.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By OB-1 on 10 April 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoy reading all sorts of interesting books. Unfortunately this isnt one of them. Neither funny, interesting, thought provoking, original or clever. Don't bother.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 27 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Thoughtful, energetic prose 11 Mar. 2013
By Bookreporter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
One of the ironies regarding Sam Lipsyte's work is that a man who has written three novels and two short story collections since 2000 is often called literature's king of slackers. But if you read his work, you can see how he got that reputation. From the drug-addled protagonists of VENUS DRIVE, his first book of stories, to the doughnut-wolfing development officer in his 2010 novel, THE ASK, Lipsyte's characters are potty-mouthed shirkers and grumps, most of them male, who have difficulty with alcohol, illegal drugs, fidelity, or some combination of the three.

These chronic malcontents would be unbearable in the hands of an inexpert writer. But a constant joy of Lipsyte's stories is that they offer more than just a litany of complaints and ineffectual responses. His prose can be surprisingly lyrical, and in THE FUN PARTS, his new collection of short fiction, Lipsyte gives starring roles to characters with whom you might not expect him to empathize.

Some of the best and most vivid writing in this collection is in the first three stories, all of which were originally published in The New Yorker. "The Climber Room" is the story of Tovah Gold, a 36-year-old pre-K teacher who yearns to write poetry. She adores the children at the Sweet Apple school where she teaches but until recently hasn't wanted a child of her own. One of her favorite children at the school is Dezzy Gautier, whose father, Randy, made a fortune in the software industry and is one of the school's biggest donors. When Randy hears of Dezzy's affection for Tovah, he demands that the school change Tovah's hours so that she will be on duty whenever Dezzy is at school. Tovah's outrage over Randy's actions doesn't stop her from accepting the lucrative side job of watching Dezzy one Saturday while a tuxedo-clad Randy attends an unspecified society function. The writing in "The Climber Room" has moments of disarming tenderness among its more outrageous passages. What could have been an exercise in bitterness turns into a thoughtful meditation on life's inevitable disappointments. As Randy says of himself and Tovah near the end of the story, "We're grown up and broken, just like everybody else."

The protagonist of "Deniers," the best story in the book, is Mandy Gottlieb, a 30-year-old woman who teaches cardio ballet at the Jewish Community Center in her New Jersey town. Her father, Jacob, is a Holocaust survivor who now lives in a nursing home and asks after his dead wife every time Mandy visits. Like her ex-boyfriend, Craig, Mandy is a recovering drug addict. After one of Mandy's ballet classes, a young man in a hooded sweatshirt comes on to her in the hope that she can help him reconcile his skinhead past. The title applies to all the principals in the story, each of whom yearns to airbrush the horrors, self-inflicted or otherwise, out of his or her life.

Other stories in THE FUN PARTS are more typical Lipsyte fare but are equally accomplished. "The Dungeon Master" is the story of tensions among teenage Dungeons & Dragons participants, the leader of whom is rumored to have once hit another kid with a baseball bat and to have shown a propensity for flashing strangers. "This Appointment Occurs in the Past" is about a 30ish man who is having an affair with his ex-girlfriend's married mother (shades of the Woody Allen story "Retribution") and visits a fellow stoner college friend who claims to be dying. In "The Worm in Philly," an unemployed man with a drug habit decides to write a children's book about the boxer Marvelous Marvin Hagler and enlists the help of a stoner buddy's sister, an editor who is interested in the narrator for more than just his book proposal. And "The Wisdom of the Doulas" features a male doula with attitude, drug problems and a unique method for helping a demanding client clear her milk ducts.

Did you notice all the drug addicts among the book's characters? The biggest weakness in THE FUN PARTS is its limited range. There are too many people battling drugs and alcohol, too many affairs, too many characters reconciling with aged parents, too many rich patrons pushing around members of the lower socioeconomic classes. The best stories in the book are those in which Lipsyte deviates the furthest from this formula. But he more than makes up for his narrow focus with his gift for one-liners and his thoughtful, energetic prose.

Reviewed by Michael Magras
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
No Ticket to the Game 14 April 2013
By Doctor Moss - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You won't find inspiring stories of heroes overcoming obstacles to attain undreamed successes here. That's just as well -- these are funny, entertaining, and insightful stories. Lipsyte gives us a lighthearted if defeated world, with its anti-heroes somehow claiming our empathy.

Much of the world of these stories is populated by people for whom the world is just unconquerable. It's not because they have played the game and couldn't quite win, but because they really just couldn't find their way into the game at all.

One example is the protagonist of The Worm in Philly. He's a down-and-outer with a big idea, writing a children's book about the boxer Marvin Hagler. There's nothing disastrous about the idea -- it's too ludicrous to be a disaster. He knows nothing about Hagler that he hasn't learned by a quick trip to the library, before meeting his prospective agent. He pitches his idea. We know it's going nowhere. The only question is why an agent would agree to meet with him. It's not that it's a bad idea -- it doesn't even rise high enough to be a bad idea. The agent isn't even there to listen to it. It isn't a crushing defeat for the would-be writer -- after all, he was never in the game anyway.

Many of Lipsyte's characters are like this. People without an admission ticket. He tells his stories with empathy and humor. We all know what it's like not to be admitted to the game. It kind of makes us all the brothers we wished we never had.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Very talented short story artist! 18 Jun. 2013
By Teri Frank - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I understand that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but for short story lovers who also admire the beauty and poetry of language, this book is one of the best I have ever read, and I have read many. Sam Lipsyte can be hysterical and heartbreaking in the same sentence; one moment I am laughing so hard I am crying, and in the next I am just crying. Aside from the emotions evoked, the choice of words, the minimalist execution is truly a talent that few writers are able to pull off. Worth reading!!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
'Give ear, O ye heavens!' Douchebaggery in spades 3 Sept. 2013
By Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso' - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Kind of a toughie to grade. So what are the fun parts of The Fun Parts? Starting strongly, finishing cataclysmically, for the rest it sapped my will to live. A mean stylist who can also descend to the sub-Chandleresque ('his smile said it all, though I wasn't exactly sure what it said'; 'I could tell she was getting bored. "I'm getting bored," she said') the sophomoric (douchebaggery) or the desperately wacky (gnarlitude), someone with a healthily wayward attitude to plot (I, too, dislike it) yet an unhealthy dependence on illicit substances as plot devices or signifiers, objective correlatives of moral vacuousness whose hit diminishes with overuse; not quite realism nor yet exactly comedy either - but with elements of both - these stories speak their own kind of harsh truth as they steer a woozy path 'twixt gritty and whimsy. Call them poems rather than stories if it helps, they're still hard to love. Imagine juvenile literature put out by a grown man (mid-forties, actually) and you got it. Where's the philosophy of life? Why is it always the same joke? The only sympathetic character, apart from Baltran the 'faintly buzzing' hologram gnome, is Tovah (The Climber Room, Deniers) and even her we are cued to look down on. If Lipsyte's idea of 'the real' is pure 'unselfed' sensation (p185), he's as alienated as his characters; he should go join an ashram or similar congregation of the confused, or maybe give stand-up a whirl - not-so-unwholesome spawn of Lenny Bruce and David Sedaris?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Brilliant Misfire 30 April 2014
By Michael I. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Before preparing this review, I let a week pass. Short stories take only a few minutes to read; the okay stories give us a flicker of mere amusement while the truly great stories stay with us indefinitely. So, after a week, Sam Lipsyte’s THE FUN PARTS leaves me still chewing on only one great story: “The Dungeon Master,” a piece about a coven of outcasts living Fantasy lives that exceed their earthbound lives which are wracked with dysfunction and stillborn dreams in a drab New Jersey suburbs. It’s a heartbreaking story told in an inventive style, always a winning combination. It's the only standout in this collection.

Lipsyte populates his narratives with losers, addicts, mutants, malcontents, and the hopelessly hopeful. The author chooses words the way a sharpshooter chooses ammunition. His sentences dance with expertise: “His body slid limp beside a Dumpster. Vomit fired up my throat. Gregory called it in, used a language I knew vaguely from television.” It’s energized. The man is a huge talent. But that’s exactly why the book is disappointing. Most of these stories feel like something a savant doodled on the back of a napkin. Is it good? Yes. Does it bear the signs of genius? Yup. But is it nourishing and impactful? Almost, but no. A piece like “The Wisdom of the Dulas” is couched in a hilarious conceit, but amusing does not a masterpiece make.

His style is unique, but there are shades of some of that 1990s to early-2000s “hysterical realism.” “The Republic of Empathy” and “The Real-Ass Jumbo” pulse with originality, yet their premises become so surreal that the themes are remote.

I won’t stop reading Sam Lipsyte. He’s on my radar. But THE FUN PARTS ends up being a cloudy, clunky lump of misspent genius.
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