…if a new beginning is really new, it will feel like a crisis. Any real change should make you feel, at first, afraid. If you’re not afraid of it, then it’s not real change.
Nathan Hill, The Nix
I listened to the Nix while reading Infinite Jest. Seeking to balance that madness, I picked an audiobook from my wishlist which ended up on my list primarily because of the cover art.
I am a sucker for good book cover art and looking back over my books read last year, the ones that I picked based on the cover never disappointed. There’s got to be something psychological there, but I’ll leave that to a marketing genius to explore.
The Nix spans decades and follows Samuel Andreson – Anderson through years of questions, changes, friendships, failures, love interests, and the curse of the Nix. The book begins in his adulthood and finds him as a gaming addict/college professor caught up in national political headlines when his missing mother makes the news after throwing rocks at a presidential candidate.
Samuel, a promising author that never delivered on his book deal, is put in the impossible position of paying back the advance money. That is until he offers up a story of interest – his mother, Faye. The publisher accepts his proposal and Samuel sets out to find his mother, ask her why she left him as a child, and get close enough to write a tell-all about Faye the political protestor turned assailant.
Nathan Hill uses historic events as a backdrop – i.e. Occupy Wallstreet and political protests in the 60’s – which helped me keep my timeline and characters straight. This is a huge positive for this book because of the length (640 pages). Even listening to the audiobook, I never got lost.
What I enjoyed the most about this book were the well-developed rabbit trails that made each character come to life. I often find myself wanting more from the author on what seems to be an interesting character with a story.
Nathan Hill leaves no character stone unturned. And while this leads to a long book, I enjoyed the backstories of almost every character. There are a few I could have done without but overall, the backstories added a rich layer in the plot of the book.
Hill’s writing style is meticulous, witty, emotional, and pulls no punches. There is a healthy dose of social and political commentary which adds color when told through the perspectives of the characters.
Who would I recommend this book to? Anyone who enjoys a long book with well-developed characters. If you are a fan of John Irving, Michael Chabon, or David Foster Wallace you should enjoy this book.
And speaking of David Foster Wallace, an un-review of Infinite Jest is coming soon.