Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pondering Squandering

A howl from the bowels of nonprofit development, The Ask by Sam Lipsyte is a perverse heist-movie of a book. Coen brothers funny, it offers poignant humiliations and not-quite redemption.

A scene on page 270 between narrator Milo and his preschooler, Bernie, struck me dumb. I’ll spend the summer mulling over this Lipsyte insight.

“Listen,” I said.
“Yes, Daddy?”
“Squander it. Always squander it. Give it all away.”
“Give what away? My toys?”
“No, yes, sure, your toys, too. Whatever it is. Squander it. Do you understand?”
“Not really.”
“Don’t save a little part of you inside yourself. Not even a scrap. It gets tainted in there. It rots.”
“What does?”
“I can’t explain it right now. Someday you’ll know. But promise me you’ll squander it.”
“I promise. What’s squander?”
“You don’t need to know that yet. Here’s what you need to know:  The boy can walk away from the ogre’s castle. He doesn’t have to knock. Some people will tell you that it’s better the boy get hurt or even die than never know whether he could have defeated the ogre and won the ogre’s treasure. But those are the people who tell us stories to keep us slaves.”
“Daddy?” said Bernie.
“Can I have a stegosaurus cake for my birthday like Jeremy got?”
“Yes, of course. For your birthday.”
I yanked him to me, buried my face against his strong, tiny neck.
“I love you, Bernie.”