The Ask by Sam Lipsyte
Milo Burke is typical of Sam Lipsyte's (Home Land) anti-heroes. He's not fit, tan, or well-coifed. In fact, he's the opposite of these things - a disheveled, semi-bitter failed artist, married and raising a son in Astoria, Queens. He's also, admittedly, a mediocre employee in the development office of a mediocre New York university, where his job is to "grovel for money." It's not something he excels at.
"I'd become one of those mistakes you sometimes find in an office, a not unpleasant but mostly unproductive presence bobbing along on the energy tides of others, a walking reminder of somebody's error in judgement."
Milo loses his mediocre job when he verbally eviscerates an "arrogant, talentless, daddy-damaged-waif" whose father bought the university's observatory, but he quickly recovers it when the opportunity arises to land a major "give" from Purdy Stuart, a millionaire tech entrepreneur who happens to be an old college buddy. It's a surprising reunion for Milo, one that reconnects him with his past and calls into question his assumptions about the future.
"No, I mean, if I were the protagonist of a book or a movie, it would be hard to like me, to identify with me, right?"
"I would never read a book like that, Milo. I can't think of anyone who would. There's no reason for it."
The Ask is lewd and often hilarious; its characters, both likable and not, are believable and captivating figures; and though it seemed merely to unravel towards its close rather than actually ending, its satirical story of middle class mediocrity is unpredictably captivating.