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No One Left to Come Looking for You

Review

No One Left to Come Looking for You

Sam Lipsyte wastes no time in clearly (and cleverly) broadcasting the timestamp of his latest novel. In an early scene, Bill Clinton is being sworn in for his first term as president. Were it not for telling details like this, readers might be hard-pressed to date NO ONE LEFT TO COME LOOKING FOR YOU in 1993.

Narrator Jonathan Liptak (aka Jack Shit, a bassist for the Shits) wishes (and, in most cases, acts like) it was the 1970s, and he and his band could be at the forefront of punk music rather than one of the last hangers-on. The book also bears some hallmarks of old-school noir, complete with shadowy figures going down fire escapes, cops who may or may not be corrupt, and a mystery that Jack and his friends dub "The Case of the Missing Bass."

"To a certain extent, NO ONE LEFT TO COME LOOKING FOR YOU is relatively restrained compared to some of [Lipsyte's] earlier works --- the noir stylings and the general elegiac air seem to put a damper on his linguistic enthusiasms --- but that's not a bad thing."

That's because when the novel opens, Jack is confronting two disappearances --- his roommate (the Shits' charismatic front man, who is known as the Banished Earl) and his beloved Fender bass. To be honest, Jack is more concerned about the fate of his instrument. The Earl, who has an addiction problem, has disappeared before, and Jack suspects that he has pawned the bass for drugs.

Things go from bad to worse when Jack --- his bandmates, former bandmates and wannabe bandmates in tow --- starts to investigate the disappearance, which soon leads to the discovery of a murder that may or may not be related, and to a rather surprising villain who represents everything that is wrong (or about to be wrong) with New York.

Lipsyte's novels are always funny in a dense, almost exhausting way. His characters are fast-talking and smart. Reading his prose, especially his dialogue, feels like listening in on a conversation between some of the smartest, funniest people you know after they've had perhaps a bit too much to drink. It's droll and exhausting at the same time. To a certain extent, NO ONE LEFT TO COME LOOKING FOR YOU is relatively restrained compared to some of his earlier works --- the noir stylings and the general elegiac air seem to put a damper on his linguistic enthusiasms --- but that's not a bad thing.

Jack's amateur sleuthing plays out in some unexpected ways, and perhaps it’s not surprising that, in a novel set in early 1990s New York City, a real estate tycoon should wind up being at the root of all evil. New York is on the cusp of becoming nothing more than a shiny façade, Lipsyte seems to suggest. The real New York, with its scrappy artists and grimy neighborhoods, is on the verge of being swept away by the ultra-rich, leaving no room for folks like Jack and his friends.

As an astute cop points out, Jack and his bandmates are also far from the genuine article: "You get to live in your sweet, protected world, your little dirtbag Disneyland, because other people have arranged it for you. Because it's good for business all around. You move in and pretend it's nineteen seventy-six, but it's not. You're just yuppies, but with torn jeans and track marks instead of oxford shirts and squash injuries."

In Lipsyte's novel, gentrification and commodification are just getting rolling. Readers viewing this world through the lens of 2022 sensibilities will see Jack and his friends hurtling toward a future that has no place for them --- at least not for the neo-punk identities they've fashioned for themselves.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on December 10, 2022

No One Left to Come Looking for You
by Sam Lipsyte

  • Publication Date: December 6, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 1501146122
  • ISBN-13: ‎9781501146121