At the beginning of The Ask, Horace sits with Burke and proclaims that America is a ‘run down and demented pimp’.At the beginning of The Ask, Horace sits with Burke and proclaims that America is a ‘run down and demented pimp’. Horace is not Quintus Horatius Flac- cus; and Burke is not Edmund Burke. The two men are employees of the fundraising department of a mediocre university in New York, whose job is to approach the rich families of former students and solicit donations. This is, of course, a peculiarly American job, where the super-rich are relied upon to finance academe in exchange for favours bestowed on their offspring. At least, that’s the version of private college funding put across by Sam Lipsyte.The narrative arc on which this novel is hung is Burke’s attempt to secure a large cheque for the university, and thereby keep his job.