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by Sam Lipsyte
ISBN 0007133677 / 9780007133673 / 0-00-713367-7
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Sam Lipsyte's Venus Drive is tightly wound in more ways than one. Peopled by walking-wounded hipsters with crummy jobs, drug fiends in varied stages of addiction, and kids sent away to summer camp who act on their worst instincts, these sharply written short stories crackle with crafty, streetwise dialogue. Their first-person narratives place engaging, unstable people into seedy yet believable situations in a way that might remind the reader of Denis Johnson, Robert Stone, or Lynne Tillman. Perspectives vary from tale to tale, but these are characters engaged in compulsive pursuits who find themselves pushed to limits they didn't know they had. At his best, Lipsyte writes the way Miles Davis played trumpet--with a few lines, and some silence, he makes everything cohere. One of the gifts of this debut collection is its unsentimentality; the various vignettes come together to show us that "life on the edge" is uncannily similar to any other lifestyle choice. For some, fantasy and reality are just different channels on the same TV set. --Mike McGonigal [via]