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The Nix Paperback – May 2, 2017
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The Amazon Book Review
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An Amazon Best Book of September 2016: The Nix is a surprising novel that you didn’t know you were waiting for until you start reading. At its center is Samuel Andresen-Anderson, a failed writer and increasingly apathetic college professor, who gets a second chance at literary fame from the most unlikely source—the mother who abandoned him as a child. The American public is up in arms about a rather absurd crime that Samuel’s mother committed against an obnoxious politician. While Sam is shocked and surprised to learn the whereabouts of his estranged mother, he also realizes it’s the chance of a lifetime to tap into the zeitgeist with some choice tidbits about her, if he can write it before media A.D.D. sets in. But in order to write the book that will revive him, Samuel is forced to dig into her life, and he discovers a completely different version of the woman he thought he knew; it turns out he’s not the only one who’s life is carved out of traumatic events. Nathan Hill is incredibly perceptive, as in this, which I can’t stop thinking about: “The things we love the most are the most disfiguring. Such is our greed for them.” Hill has created a brilliant junction of mother-son saga and comic satire about our self-righteous and obsessive society. This is a big, clever novel that wraps itself around you until you never want to leave. --Seira Wilson, The Amazon Book Review --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“If any novel defied an elevator pitch in 2016, it was The Nix. Acid critique of millennial entitlement, videogame addiction, and clueless academia; tender meditation on childhood friendship, first loves, and maternal abandonment; handy tutorial on ’60s radicalism and Norwegian ghost mythology: Nathan Hill’s magnificently overstuffed debut contains multitudes, and then some. . . . the story surges, ricocheting from sleepy ’80s suburbia and the 1968 DNC riots to WWII-era Norway, post-9/11 Iraq, and beyond. It’s not just that Hill is a brilliantly surreal social satirist in the gonzo mode of Don DeLillo or Thomas Pynchon (a male news anchor’s face is ‘smooth as cake fondant’; one doomed union is ‘like a spoon married to a garbage disposal’), it’s that he does it all with so much wit and style and heart.” —Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly (Best Book of 2016)
“A fantastic novel about love, betrayal, politics and pop culture—as good as the best Michael Chabon or Jonathan Franzen.” —People
“It broke my heart, this book. Time after time. It made me laugh just as often. I loved it on the first page as powerfully as I did on the last.” —Jason Sheehan, NPR.org
“Funny, endlessly inventive. . . . [a] wild tragicomic tangle of [Hill’s] imagination.” —Entertainment Weekly (A-)
“Hill has so much talent to burn that he can pull of just about any style, imagine himself into any person and convincingly portray any place or time. The Nix is hugely entertaining and unfailingly smart, and the author seems incapable of writing a pedestrian sentence or spinning a boring story. . . . [A] supersize and audacious novel of American misadventure.” —Teddy Wayne, The New York Times Book Review
“Irresistible. . . . A major new comic novelist . . . . Hill is a sharp social observer, hyper-alert to the absurdities of modern life. . . . his enormous book arrives as one of the stars of the fall season. . . . readers will find this novel. And they’ll be dazzled.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“Hill is an uncommonly profound observer, illuminating much about the relationships between parents and children. . . . Nathan Hill is an important new writer, able to variously make readers laugh out loud while providing a melancholy, resonant tale.” —Eliot Schrefer, USA Today (4/4 Stars)
"[A] great sprawling feast of a first novel. . . . Hill writes with an astonishingly sure hand for a young author. . . . let's just call him the real thing." —Dan Cryer, Newsday
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But really, this basic plot description does not begin to do this book justice. Nathan Hill has a dazzling imagination, and the feats of writing that he performs are an absolute joy to experience. He writes one chapter from the POV of a gaming addict, an internal stream of consciousness in which the character makes elaborate plans to quit gaming, but talks himself out of it. This is ten pages, one paragraph, and it is absolutely mesmerizing -- funny and insightful and sad, about the stories we tell ourselves. Another chapter is just a conversation between Samuel and the lawyer who is representing his mother, nothing but dialogue, and it is hysterical. Another chapter is a Choose Your Own Adventure mini-bookl explaining how Samuel's relationship with a violin prodigy came unraveled, because Samuel does not choose wisely. Another chapter is...you get the picture.
The story of Samuel and his mother is a jumping-off point for Mr. Hill to write about a huge range of things: let's see, he covers second-rate higher education, gaming addicts, the ravenous news media, music prodigies, child abuse, child abandonment, thwarted love, the 1960s counter-cultural revolution, Allan Ginsberg, Walter Cronkite -- at one point, no joke, there is a sequence inside the head of Walter Cronkite where he imagines himself as a bird flying above the Chicago riots... and I still haven't skimmed the surface of all the things this book is really about.
And if I have a criticism, that's what it is. This book is about so many things, it is so wildly ambitious and imagined, that at times it seems to get a bit out of control. Around the time Walter Cronkite was imagining himself as a bird, I was thinking, hmm, a little editing might have helped some. Reading The Nix feels a bit like watching a wildly talented thoroughbred run -- and win -- its first race. You see the immense beauty of the animal, the strength, the speed, it easily outpaces the rest of the field, you know you're at the beginning of something special. Yes, the horse is a little wild, a little undisciplined, maybe veers around the track a bit, maybe tires at the end, but my gosh. You want to turn to everyone around you and say "Did you SEE that?"
And one last thing. So many books these days are being written with a lot of technique, but they're lacking in heart. What makes this book special, to me, is that Mr. Hill's heart is as generous as his talent. He writes fantastic sentences, he has astonishing craft, but beyond that, he has true empathy, compassion and hope, He sees the insanity of the world, but he also has hope for our future. And I have tremendous hope for his.
Panoramic and intimate.
I can't imagine a reader that won't find something to like in this novel. There were times I choked up and times I laughed loud enough to startle people around me.
Just read it.