Sam Lipsyte

Sam Lipsyte's corrosive, obscene, unpleasantly hilarious The Ask (Farrar Straus Giroux, $25) is a novel full of morally unsound, spiritually beleaguered New Yorkers beset by a fusillade of First World problems, not the least of which being how painfully conscious they are of those problems' First World–ness—that their existential woe and petty grievances are, to the actually-suffering vast majority of the rest of the world, both ridiculous and deeply offensive, the kind of theatrical malaise you shake off via a 40-minute shower wherein you "loose wet, scorching farts" and "waste enough water to hydrate an Eritrean village for a year." Plot is neither Lipsyte's strength nor particular concern. A Columbia creative-writing guru with a short-story collection and two other novels to his credit, he's much more of a riffer: The Ask can be easily devoured in one sitting that will leave you more uncomfortable emotionally than physically. ROB HARVILLA

Thu., March 25, 7 p.m., 2010

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