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Lightning People: A Novel Hardcover – August 30, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Lightning People

"The fanciful premise behind the title of Bollen’s novel is that, after New York loses the lightning conductors of the Twin Towers, more and more residents die in lightning strikes. But the title also evokes the random nature of post-millennial city life, in which disaster or good fortune can strike at any time. An actor, supported by money from reruns of old commercials, pursues a sinister hobby—frequenting conspiracy-theory chat rooms and meetings. His wife doesn’t know about her husband’s fixation, distracted by her depressing job at the Bronx Zoo and her dysfunctional friends. Bollen excels at creating an atmosphere of Manhattan-specific dread, and certain scenes, particularly the account of a struggling actor’s going-away party, are tragicomic masterpieces." —The New Yorker

"Ambitious . . . a nervy debut illuminated by flashes of insight." —The Wall Street Journal

"Heightened, poignant, and mysterious...Bollen’s atmospheric tale of post-9/11 New York has more twists and toxicity than the venomous snakes Del cares for at the Bronx Zoo...ambitious and provocative...his frantic characters are alluring, his writing ravishing, and his insights trenchant."–Booklist

“Bollen’s characters are brimming with the verve and stamina of real people searching for meaning in a city beset by calamity... [and] the novel demonstrates the vigor and audacity of a formidable new voice.” –Publisher’s Weekly

"Bollen's intricate, humid Lightning People deftly combines paranoia and high drama with the mundane ache of real relationships, real weather, and a very real New York City. He delves into the the haunting mythologies we truly can't escape, while somehow capturing the sweetness of why we come together anyway." —Miranda July

"Smart and rich with the spirit of our age, with keen insight into human emotions and why we do the things we do. So readable." –Douglas Coupland

"Christopher Bollen's Lightning People is a tour de force that calls to mind The Great Gatsby. Bollen writes with both humor and humanity, as he paints a canvas of love, loss, and youth in New York, and beyond. By the end, I felt I knew these people, these beautiful lightning people, and I felt myself caring for them in ways I hadn't anticipated." —Vendela Vida, author of The Lover's

"Lightning People is a spacious saga about America. It is centered on New York and the lives of people about to be no longer young, a generation marked by 9/11 and a sense of doom or at least diminished expectations. But it is also about Cincinnati and Miami and Sikhs and failed actors and accidental murderers. This is a big book that speaks to and for a whole generation and that draws in dozens of portraits in the crispest, blackest ink." —Edmund White

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Soft Skull Press (August 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593764197
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593764197
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,547,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Christopher Bollen is a writer who lives in New York City. His first novel, Lightning People, was released in 2011 and his second novel Orient arrived in May 2015. He is also an editor and critic whose work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, Artforum, New York Magazine, and The Believer. He is currently the editor at large of Interview Magazine.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Shannon85 on August 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I was intrigued when I read the synopsis of this book and decided to pre order a copy. I had high expectations and not only did this book meet those expectations, it exceeded them! Lightning People is by far the best book I've read all year.

Lightning People could be called a New York novel but that would be doing it a disservice as it's so much bigger than that.

It's an epic, plot driven, character piece that grips you from beginning to end. The central characters - Del, Madi, Joseph, Raj and William - will haunt you for weeks after you finish reading. I still can't help but think of them each day. In fact, I miss them!

The plot continuosly twists and turns. It's one of those books that are impossible to put down. It's about paranoia, love, loss, friendship, rattlesnakes, multiculturalism, marriage, green cards, murder.....and that's just part one!

I was surprised to see that this was Christopher Bollen's first novel. He really knows how to craft complex characters and place. I live in Tampa and for one week I was completely transported and engulfed by the gritty and seductive streets of New York City. Not only is Bollen a sophisticated writer, he is obviously a great observer of people and life. I really think he has communicated something important about the human condition with this book. I'm excited to see what he does next.

It's rare to find a book that is so entertaining and edifying. A MUST READ!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By "switterbug" Betsey Van Horn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Christopher Bollen's psychodynamic first novel inhabits the grey area between commercial and cult, between conventional and subversive, and splices a dark synchronicity with a shot of paranoia, an ache of sweetness, and a slice of fabled, stormy weather. The myth and mania of New York is felt instantly, like a Springsteen song--channeling the diamond-hard look of a cobra into every nuance. Granted, it is hard to be a saint in the city; and between the saints and sinners lies the urban maw, swallowing the serrated and sequestered denizens of the boroughs into its viscera. There's a fugitive heart at the center of this story, electrifying and transformative.

This book likely appeals to the under forty contemporary dreamers or the boomers who have witnessed stunning synchronous moments and transcendent, altered states. You have to relinquish control of the tiller, enjoy the ride, eyes to the wide, not fixed straight ahead. The story explores fate and coincidence, intersecting the lives of various individuals trying to legitimize their lives in the post 9/11 years, before the economic collapse of 2007. They are searching for intimacy and sanctuary and trying to reconcile past and present toward a redemptive future.

LIGHTNING PEOPLE is best experienced with minimal disclosure; this review aims to pique your interest, not give you spoilers. It has tendrils of Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin, as well as the Oscar-winning movie, Crash, but it's its own restless animal. Frequently edgy and grim, it is also romantic and adventurous.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
LIGHTNING PEOPLE is an electrifying book, a high voltage tightrope of five 30-something characters that are walking the edge in the post 9/11 New York City. It's a book about true connections, missed connections and downright parasitic connections. Its energy strikes and surges randomly, briefly illuminating, sometimes plunging back into the darkness. And by the end, it leaves the reader rubbing eyes as he or she emerges back into a transformed light.

In crucial ways, its theme is similar to the Oscar-winning movie Crash. One of the key characters in that movie said: "In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something."

Move the setting from L.A. to New York. An ensemble of rootless characters crash into each other as they struggle to find meaningful interactions. There is the actor Joseph Giteau, who left his Ohio home and his reclusive and conspiracy-obsessed mother, newly married to Del Kousavos, a snake expert at a city zoo who is on a work visa from Greece. In the aftermath of 9/11, he finds himself at thriving prisonerofearth conspiracy meetings, trying to take stock and make sense of his life.

Joseph and Del are surrounded by others: Raj, Del's exotic and not-yet-forgotten former lover and his sister Madi, Del's best friend, an executive at a company outsourcing jobs to India. And lastly, there is William Asternathy, whose career is on permanent hiatus, on "fast live-wire current circulating through the city."

All of these characters try to remake their fate and their destiny in that shining yet alienated city of re-creation, New York.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By john tichenor on March 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I'm an avid reader of everything from Dickens to Safran-Foer, Cormac Mccarthy to Junot Diaz, and I have to say that Christopher Bolen is right up there. Intelligent and compelling narrative, excellent character development and just plain great writing. I can't wait for another novel from this guy. If you're ever in Minneapolis Christopher, let's do some tequilla shots.
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