I’ve recently read The Nix by Nathan Hill. This is a psychological, historical drama about a ghost (the nix) and a dysfunctional mother-son relationship. This is a new book, just recently added to the shelves, published in late 2016. Since this is a new book, the cost of buying it online or in the bookstore is well beyond what I can afford to spend on one book, so it’s not in my personal library, but I was able to get it from my local library. So if you don’t want to pay the cost of newer books, remember your local library for physical and digital books.
I enjoyed the pace of The Nix and even though it’s over 600 pages long, I read this in just a few evenings in under a week. I would love to edit this book, by removing some of the repetitious internal dialog and I believe it would still retain the complex storylines and characters. I could have done without some of the real-life people in this book. I understand using real-life people ties this book to history, but the Hubert Humphrey part could have been completely cut, and I could have done with less of Allen Ginsberg and Walter Cronkite. It’s historically accurate that Walter Cronkite made the thug comment when Dan Rather was knocked over at the 1968 Democratic Convention, but Nathan Hill takes liberties portraying Walter Cronkite as old and passed his prime in the 60s. In 1968, Cronkite was 52 and had started anchoring the CBS Evening News just 6 years before in 1962 and would go on to anchor for several more years until 1981. The thoughts Hill gives Cronkite are hard for me to accept as plausible. Cronkite was just too much of an icon in the 60s and 70s to believe this character that Hill has created for The Nix.
You’ll recognize people you know in these characters and its portrayal of American consumerism and social and political isolation from reality is relevant and revealing. I like how the story changes along the way as the characters get and give more information so that what you thought was the story at the beginning is actually something completely different once you have all the information later in the book. Usually books are plot or character-based. This book is both and you can expect twists from both. Expect sex and some off-the-wall, horrifying events and actions from some of the characters.
My favorite quote is from Faye, Samuel’s mother,
“…sometimes a crisis is not really a crisis at all—just a new beginning…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.”
Most of the characters are men and I wish the women characters had leading roles throughout the book, but overall, I recommend this book. If you want a revealing look into our culture and a story with a lot of twists and turns, then go to your quiet place and start reading or listening.