The NixBook - 2016
"The Nix is a mother-son psychodrama with ghosts and politics, but it's also a tragicomedy about anger and sanctimony in America. . . . Nathan Hill is a maestro." --John Irving
From the suburban Midwest to New York City to the 1968 riots that rocked Chicago and beyond, The Nix explores--with sharp humor and a fierce tenderness--the resilience of love and home, even in times of radical change.
It's 2011, and Samuel Andresen-Anderson--college professor, stalled writer--has a Nix of his own: his mother, Faye. He hasn't seen her in decades, not since she abandoned the family when he was a boy. Now she's re-appeared, having committed an absurd crime that electrifies the nightly news, beguiles the internet, and inflames a politically divided country. The media paints Faye as a radical hippie with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother was an ordinary girl who married her high-school sweetheart. Which version of his mother is true? Two facts are certain: she's facing some serious charges, and she needs Samuel's help.
To save her, Samuel will have to embark on his own journey, uncovering long-buried secrets about the woman he thought he knew, secrets that stretch across generations and have their origin all the way back in Norway, home of the mysterious Nix. As he does so, Samuel will confront not only Faye's losses but also his own lost love, and will relearn everything he thought he knew about his mother, and himself.
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She's decided that about eighty percent of what you believe about yourself when you're twenty turns out to be wrong.
In the months before the protest, it was Sebastian who had printed those outrageous stories in the Free Voice about spiking the city's water supply with LSD, about abducting delegates' wives about bombs going off at the amphitheater. That no such plans were ever actually considered was irrelevant. He had learned something important: What was printed became the truth.
This is what the nation had to look forward to for the next year. Twelve full months of stump speeches and gaffes and ads and attacks and stupidity, agonizing stupidity, bordering on immoral stupidity. It was as if ever four years all news everywhere just lost perspective. And then billions of dollars would be spent to achieve what was already inevitable—the whole election would come down to a handful of swing voters in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The electoral math pretty much ordained this.
There was an aspect of graffiti Samuel found romantic. Especially graffiti sprayed in dangerous locations. There was something romantic about a writer risking injury to put down words.
If you keep pestering the politician, you look like a pest, and America does not tune in to watch pests. It's a chilling thought, that politicians have learned to manipulate the television medium better than the television professionals themselves. When old Cronkite first realized this was happening he imagined the kinds of people who would become president in the future. And he shuddered with fear.
In the story of the blind men and the elephant, what's usually ignored is the fact that each man's description was correct. What Faye won't understand and may never understand is that there is not one true self hidden by many false ones. Rather, there is one true self hidden by many other true ones. Yes. She is the eek and shy and industrious student. Yes, she is the panicky and frightened child Yes, she is the bold and impulsive seductress. Yes, she is the wife, the mother. And many other things as well. Her belief that only one of these is true obscures the larger truth, which was ultimately the problem with the blind men and the elephant. It wasn't that they were blind—it's that they stopped too quickly, and so never knew there was a larger truth to grasp.
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