The warm reception for Sam Lipsyte’s most recent novels, Homeland and The Ask, enhanced his reputation for savage and profane satire. But if you’re the sort of reader who craves endearing characters along with wild scenarios and funny dialogue, Lipsyte’s stories might be the place to start.
The 13 stories in The Fun Parts delve into the lives of high school shot putters, teenage role-playing game enthusiasts and a male doula, or “doulo,” as he prefers to be called, a guy with “yellow teeth and ratty (vintage) buckskin jacket who wanted to make a positive and tremendous impact on [the] birth experience.”
Lipsyte is known for doughy, chronic-loser male protagonists, but in two of the strongest stories, he writes with sensitivity about women, without dulling his sharp humor. In “The Climber Room,” Tovah Gold is single and pining for a child as she ekes out a living at an upscale preschool called Sweet Apple in recession-era New York. She finds the parents more difficult to manage than the kids, particularly one father, Randy Gautier, whose name she aptly mishears as “Randy Goat.” Tovah was a poet before the pressures of making a living set in, and she learns that Randy, who made his millions in Silicon Valley, funds a poetry journal. When he offers her “a call girl’s fee” for a night of baby-sitting, her fantasies collide with unexpected realities.