A dark comedy set in a second-rate college in New York (the narrator calls it “Mediocre College in New York”, nice). The writing is tough and sharp and funny, ultimately it’s not fully readable (finishable) because the plotting is artificial and rickety. And because we don’t care about any of the characters, the thinness of the plot feels ever more apparent.
Lipsyte is a mean-spirited observer and he’s not afraid to create unsympathetic characters — traits I admire — but ultimately the cartoonishness of the plot (and characters) feels, false. Satire only works if the exaggeration somehow results in a sense of heightened reality, rather than altered or falsified reality.
Lipsyte also has some very nice turns of phrase. He has a trick where the narrator steps back and reveals his own tendency to exaggerate: “We often called it ‘The Mediocre University at New York,’… By we I mean Horace and I. By often I mean once.”
That is very nice indeed!
Still, the unreality, and the mean-spiritedness, drove me away long before the end of the novel.