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The Subject Steve: A Novel

Lipsyte, Sam

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ISBN 10: 0767908856 / ISBN 13: 9780767908856
Published by Broadway Books, New York, New York, U.S.A., 2001
Condition: Fine Hardcover
From Daniel Montemarano (Newfield, NJ, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

1st Edition/1st Printing. SIGNED by author on a bookplate affixed to front end page (signature only). DJ spine lightly sunned. $23.95 price present on DJ flap. Authopr's first novel. Size: 64mo - up to 3" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 024038

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Subject Steve: A Novel

Publisher: Broadway Books, New York, New York, U.S.A.

Publication Date: 2001

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition:Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine

Signed: Signed by Author

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


The bad news was bad. I was dying. I was dying of something no one had ever died of before. I was dying of something absolutely, fantastically new.

The Subject Steve is a dark, dazzling, and totally original satire on human mortality and our desperate efforts to evade it. Meet Steve (not his real name), a Special Case, in truth a Terminal Case, and the eponymous antihero of Sam Lipsyte’s savagely funny first novel. Steve has been informed by his two doctors, the Philosopher and the Mechanic, that he is dying of a condition of unquestioned fatality but no discernible physical cause. Eager to brand a new plague with their names, they call it Goldfarb-Blackstone Preparatory Extinction Syndrome, or PREXIS for short.

The news that this perfectly ordinary postmodern citizen–bitter ex-husband, quasi-deadbeat father, midlife adman, creator of such resonant slogans as “Reality Is for Those Who Dream” and “How Did You Like Tomorrow?”–is dying of something that might well be boredom sets off a media frenzy. When his physicians are exposed as frauds, but not his death sentence, he betakes himself upstate to the Center for Nondenominational Recovery and Redemption, founded and ruled by the shadowy and brutal caregiver Heinrich of Newark. From there he will travel to the desert, where the success of a cultish media empire will rest on his demise. But nothing will alter the Subject Steve’s inevitable rendezvous with those twin banes of humankind, death and synergy.

With the publication of this novel, by turns manic, ebullient and exquisitely deadpan, Sam Lipsyte enters the company of the master American satirists. It is a dark comedy for overlit times.


The Subject Steve, Sam Lipsyte's remarkable debut novel, is an ebullient, bawdy, and idiosyncratic assault on American consumer culture. Like fellow mercurial satirists Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, and David Foster Wallace, Lipsyte is an impressive stylist. His argot is the psychobabble of corporate jargon, advertising slogans, and sound bites. Wordplay rather than characterization is Lipsyte's métier and his language positively fizzes with invention. The characters here don't so much converse as exchange obtuse epigrammatic non sequiturs and indulge in linguistic quips. This should, of course, be utterly infuriating, but it isn't. The dialogue, like the rest of this savage, absurdist take on contemporary life (and more precisely our horror of death), is startlingly acute and unrelentingly funny.

The eponymous Steve (who claims his name is not Steve) is a mild-mannered 37-year old ad man who pens slogans celebrating the "ongoing orgasm of the information lifestyle." Unfortunately, he's dying, but "he's dying of something nobody has ever died of before: he's actually going to die of boredom." The scientists (who may not be scientists although they do wear white coats) "calculate that there can be no calculations" about how long he has left to live. Faced with this eventuality he embarks on a particularly wayward sexual, narcotic, and religious odyssey. Lipsyte fills Steve's journey with so many oddball doctors, multimedia weirdoes, dysfunctional gurus, and bizarre sexual encounters that it's actually rather difficult to imagine anyone dying of boredom. Exhaustion, perhaps. Ludicrous and occasionally even a little bit sick, Lipsyte's surreal, intelligent black comedy proves that death really can be a laughing matter. --Travis Elborough,

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