Sam Lipsyte on Plastic Bags

by Matt Bell

Every time we move, I again encounter the shopping bags full of shopping bags, saved to be recycled but never recycled, instead just accumulating in some dark corner of our house, like a plastic rat king. And every time it makes me think of Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask, with its obsession with such bags inside of bags. From four different parts of the novel:

“Some natty loon sat alone at the next table. He wore a pilled herringbone blazer, crusty at the cuffs, guarded a shopping bag packed with neatly folded shopping bags.”

“The shopping bag stuffed with shopping bags was never far from reach, but when I asked him its meaning or purpose he told me I didn’t have proper clearance.”

“Maybe someday Bernie, still getting over his father’s untimely but somehow not surprising death, would take his new girlfriend to see the disturbing but brilliant drawings by the kiddie-diddler who spent most of his adult life guarding a shopping bag full of shopping bags in a doughnut shop not far from where he, Bernie, grew up, but who also, unbeknownst to the world, inhabited a fabulous and secret universe of the mind.”

“I listened to the rustle of the food bags. Paper and plastic. You could recycle the paper, slip the plastic over your head. Recycle yourself.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER ADVERTISEMENT

About the Author

More Like This

The Responsibilities of a Book Critic in the Era of a Trump Presidency

2019 Pulitzer-prize winner Carlos Lozada on writing about class, identity politics, and the Mueller report

May 24 - Adam Vitcavage

8 Shocking Heel Turns in Fiction

What happens when good characters go bad

May 24 - Andrea Oh

The Under-Appreciated Feminism of “The Thomas Crown Affair”

The way the story changed from 1968 to 1999 shows growth for the female lead—but there's still further to go

May 24 - Mallory Farrugia