Thursday, December 01, 2016
"The Nix" by Nathan Hill - A Provocative and Entertaining Novel
"The Nix" by Nathan Hill is a tour de force novel that takes the reader on a fantastic voyage that reaches back to the violent 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention police riots. Since I was studying in the Chicago area during those years, I found the telling of this story to be fascinating and provocative, and to have accurately captured the spirit of the time.
Protagonist Stephen Andresen-Anderson is a college professor who faces many difficult challenges. A one time rising literary star based on a hit first novel, he has struggled to follow up that meteoric success with any additional novels. He faces serious struggles with his college administration and with a plagiarizing student who is the very epitome of an entitled generation of Millennials. Through these and other characters, Mr. Hill is commenting wryly on many things he sees going off the rails in 21st century America.
Stephen's world is turned upside down when his mother, who had abandoned the family many years ago, suddenly surfaces as a notorious criminal. She threw rocks at a Presidential candidate and is in jail awaiting trial. Stephen is coerced into trying to help her, and the rest of the novel is devoted to his search for the secret to her black hole of a past. His journey of discovery and self-discovery takes him all the way back to an ancestral home in rural Norway. There are surprises and revelations at every turn.
The story is intriguing, beautifully written, and thought-provoking.