cover image The Slip

The Slip

Mark Sampson. Dundurn (IPS, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $15.99 trade paper (280p) ISBN 978-1-4597-3575-0

Early in the riotous but astute third novel by Sampson (Sad Peninsula), readers will see that renowned philosophy professor and public intellectual Philip Sharpe is about to take a tumble; it’s just a question of how far he will fall and whether he will be able to get back up. Philip has admirable traits, including having attained an Oxford education in spite of an impoverished childhood, but he nevertheless comes across as neglectful husband and an impatient, pompous know-it-all. A televised debate against a “grotesquely conservative” newspaper columnist degenerates into sniping, and he insults his opponent. Social media explodes with criticism and threats directed at Philip, and the next week gives him ample cause to double-fist his cocktails. In addition to stretches of expertly timed hilarity, including a hellish brunch, the author examines an assortment of contemporary issues, such as the gendered division of household labor, everyday sexism, volatile university politics, social media crucifixions, and political correctness. Sampson’s gift to his protagonist is not judging the 49-year-old “compulsively type A” prof as a hopeless jerk. Like Robertson Davies, he grants him the ability to direct his prodigious intellect inward, with satisfying results. (June)