‘My Apology’ by Sam Lipsyte

My Apology by Sam Lipsyte, 2021

The magic trick:

Telling the story of everything being perfect, leaving the reader’s own pessimistic suspicion to drive the suspense

Hey, it’s a story that blatantly recalls our modern day (cancel culture, to be specific) and I don’t hate it!

Lately, my reactions to in-the-moment fictional reflections on Trumpism, #MeToo, and or COVID have ranged from bored to disgusted. It’s not an easy feat to pull off, capturing the contemporary in a way that isn’t too on the nose or overly judgey or nauseatingly proud.

Lipsyte just may have done it here.

“My Apology” is the story about a man who has done something bad at work. How bad? We don’t know, at least at first. But bad enough that his bosses are making him write a formal apology. Bad enough that his wife and daughter know about it.

That’s the premise at least. Where will it go from there?

Well, it veers hard into comedy. But just when you think it’s getting a bit too silly, it doubles back and finds its way into tragedy.

And if you’re starting to find it heavy-handed, don’t worry, it’s going to take another five turns before it’s done, somehow encapsulating the righteous absurdity of our times.

And that’s quite a trick on Lipsyte’s part.

The selection:

I get cracking on my newest version, try to craft something a bit more remorse-centric.

Marco, my ex-brother-in-law, who is also a lawyer, calls.

“Melissa filled me in,” he says. “I hope you’re not apologizing.”

“That’s exactly what I’m doing.”

“Big mistake. The worst thing you can do is apologize.”

“How can that be?”

“Because it will never be enough,” Marco says. “And it won’t change the outcome, either. They’ve already made up their minds about you, trust me. It’s just assets and liabilities. The morality stuff is a smoke screen. Maybe they feel they’re paying you too much. Maybe you’re not as productive as you used to be. Here’s a chance for them to make a change. And they can look good while still earning their profits. Nothing important has been altered to make the lives of ordinary people better. But your bosses can keep coasting along, the pigs. Meanwhile, if you apologize, you’ll get nothing from them in court, down the line, because you will have already admitted you did something wrong.”


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