HOME LAND by Sam Lipsyte

“Catamounts, once more I stuff my heart into the firing tube of language, loft it into the void,” writes Lewis Miner, hero of Sam Lipsyte’s Home Land (Picador, 2005), in his final posting to high-school classmates of a decade and a half ago. “See the wet meat soar?”

Finally we can hear it land. A yearbook’s worth of rue poured into a one-sided correspondence, a laughline-laden entertainment that’s also an oblique political razz: Sam Lipsyte’s very American second novel, Home Land, came out across the pond in 2004, and only now appears on native soil. If it’s true that, in this era of our New Patriotism, stateside publishers balked at Home Land’s less-than-rosy depiction of the way we live now, perhaps it’s appropriate that the book finally emerges post-election, as divisions on the domestic front seem to widen by the week.

But the real pleasures of Home Land have little to do with red-state/blue-state affinities. Lewis Miner isn’t moving to Canada anytime soon. A Niagara of verbiage—droll, profane, raucous, sad—provides the energy for a social satire so merciless and heartfelt that it inspires in the reader a weird faith. Family life and the inescapable hierarchy of school are Home Land’s fattest targets, but the author’s packing blunderbuss, playfully blasting recovered memories, neo-sincere modern rock, academic plagiarism, and internet fetish porn. Lipsyte seamlessly—and bravely—grafts the most exquisitely ornate sentences to an overall vibe that’s as intimate as conversation. You will not laugh as much this year, even as you look down at the void that Lipsyte’s words so gorgeously, nervously cross.


From Home Land by Sam Lipsyte:


It’s time you knew the cold soft facts of me. Ever since Principal Fontana found me and commenced to bless my mail slot, monthly, with the Eastern Valley High School Alumni Newsletter, I’ve been meaning to write my update. Sad to say, vanity slowed my hand. Let a fever for the truth speed it now. Let me stand on the rooftop of my reckoning and shout naught but the indisputable: I did not pan out.

We’ve got Catamount doctors, after all, Catamount lawyers, brokers, bankers well versed in the Eastern Valley purr. (Okay, maybe it was never quite a purr. Maybe more a surly mewl. But answer me this: Why did we fail so miserably to name this noise with which we spurred our sporting types to conquest? Moreover, why was the mascot of Eastern Valley an animal that prefers elevation? A catamount is a mountain cat, Catamounts!) We’ve got a state senator, a government chemist, a gold-glove ballplayer, not to mention, according to the latest issue of Catamount Notes, a major label recording artist in our midst.

Yes, fellow alums, we’re boasting bright lights aplenty these days, serious comers, future leaders in their fields. Hell, we’ve even got a fellow who double-majored in philosophy and aquatic life management in college and still found time for a national squash title. Think about it, Catamounts. We didn’t have squash at Eastern Valley. We didn’t have tennis, either, unless you count that trick with the steel hairbrush and the catgut racquet whereby the butt skin of the weak was flayed. Point being, this boy, Will Paulsen (may he rest in peace), left our New Jersey burg without the faintest notion of squash, yet mastered it enough to beat the pants off every prep school Biff in the land, and still carry a four point zero in the question of Why Does the Universe Exist Underwater?

Is this what Principal Fontana meant by the phrase “well-rounded”?

It’s fucking spherical, Catamounts.


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