Sam Lipsyte: “I Depend on Not Knowing”

Leah Dworkin in Guernica:

For many writers, Sam Lipsyte’s readerly eyes are the most coveted. Hordes flock to the Columbia MFA Writing Program for the chance to take his fiction workshop, where he and I first met. On campus, revved up egos struggled under the weight of our grandiose dreams. We students all crossed our fingers in hopes that we’d be one of the lucky ones to gain access to The Great Lipsyte’s secrets.

His secret? No secrets. He pays attention. In an atmosphere that otherwise conditions writers to race towards the sparkliest “high-status” achievements, oh, there’s Sam with his stable vision.  He embraces time, urging his students to do the same, reintroducing the ancient notion that good work might require it.

I write this because I see something familiar in Lipsyte’s new novel Hark: aimless followers with luminous dreams, desperate for a goody bag of shortcuts. Its protagonist, Hark Morner, is a failed comedian turned spiritual guide, the founder of a technique called “mental archery.” Hark guides his disciples in doing the same thing Lipsyte teaches his students: to actually focus.

More here.