Milo Burke, a recently fired donations officer at a third-tier university, is a paragon of failure: a horny, bile-filled chunk of a man, veering into middle age with nothing to show for his youthful dreams of artistic glory. The Ask‘s narrative heft comes from the reappearance of a wealthy friend from Milo’s college days and the tragicomic scenarios that follow — the plight of socialist day-care workers and legless Iraq-war vets among them. But the gift is Sam Lipsyte’s writing: a chewy, corrosive, and syntactically dazzling prose style that doesn’t so much run across the page as pick it up and throttle it. You may want to throttle Milo yourself frequently, but you won’t stop reading. A?