If you’d rather follow a tight-knit plot than luxuriate in conspicuously deluxe prose, Hark may not be for you ... [Lipsyte's] sentences are the thing. They can go anywhere and be anything, except boring ... That’s not to say there’s no story in Hark, but it’s loose—a series of wild set pieces ... Irony becomes sincerity that doubles back, eating its own tail. It’s a style that only works with prose of the highest caliber—fluid and alert, deeply moral, unafraid to be lyrical or detour into the rudest humor. The satire is 10Xed, vicious and humane because the author’s self-recognition is clear. In Hark, little shards of phrase gleam with goofy malice, as Lipsyte perfectly embodies an exasperated Gen Xer enduring these ridiculous, teeth-gritting times ... Hark’s sendup of human greed, stupidity, and pathetic pre-apocalyptic longing delivers real empathy in an era of fake concern ... Flashes of this regard dot Lipsyte’s riotous novel like stars, bright and isolated. It’s not like compassion can save us. But it is something to focus on.
Hark is split into halves, the first of which is extremely funny ... the story unravels some in Part 2 ... Many of [Hark's riffs] are dazzling, but hardly all of them, and Hark is in the book a lot ... [Some riffs can be] Meta, sure. But meta-boring is still boring ... Lipsyte tries to give his characters cleaner moments of salvation before wrapping things up, but this being a Christ allegory tucked inside a satire, it’s safe to say it doesn’t end terribly well for anyone. It’s a shame. Not only because so much of Hark is brilliantly alive, but because everyone in it could use a bit of mercy.
The book abruptly shifts gears at the midway point, and starts to slip out of Lipsyte’s hands ... the factionalism [in Hark's group] feels poorly sketched, taking oxygen from the day-to-day details that make the first half of the book so rich. It’s a shame that Hark comes to this. It begins as an energetic and compassionate satire of what we choose to pay attention to and why. Lipsyte’s vision of the political nature of having no politics feels spot-on, and his sentences are as sharp as ever. That the novel has so many good things going for it makes the back half’s hard landing hurt all the more.