Tom Fleming

Teenage Dirtbags

The Fun Parts

By Sam Lipsyte

Granta Books 229pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

‘I did not pan out,’ declares the narrator of Sam Lipsyte’s second novel, Home Land, at the outset of the high school alumni newsletter that forms the book. By now, with his fifth work, it has come to seem the quintessential Lipsyte refrain; he is a specialist in no-hopers. The Fun Parts, his new collection of stories, is full of them. In ‘The Dungeon Master’, the 14-year-old narrator plays Dungeons & Dragons with a small group of misfits at a neighbour’s house. While the official after-school D&D club games involve the traditional giants and castles, the narrator’s game is overseen by the neighbour’s eldest child, a sadistic oddball who likes to inform them that their characters have died from rectal cancer or been hit by a runaway oxcart. He has mysterious appointments with his child-psychiatrist father; at school it’s rumoured that he set his turds on fire in the car park and gave another boy brain damage by beating him with an aluminium bat. ‘Do I have an uncanny sense of what’s to come,’ asks the narrator, ‘in which I see the Dungeon Master, blue-cheeked, hanging from his communion tie … or me, Burger Castle employee of the month for the month of October, de-gunking the fry-o-lator in the late autumn light?’

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