by Nathan Hill
Every so often, a youngish, smartish American writer throws their hat into the ring as the new Thomas Pynchon/Jonathan Franzen/David Foster Wallace/Don DeLillo (delete as appropriate). Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated set a postmodern template. So did Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding. Now it is Nathan Hill’s turn. The Nix ticks any number of boxes. Overeducated, overprivileged white male hero going nowhere à la Hamlet? Check. Fashionable 21st-century issues (video-game addiction, overwork, unfinished novel not unlike The Nix)? Check. Smart premise mixing politics and hipster soap opera that feels prophetic and so very now? Check and check. Sheldon Packer (Donald Trump in all but place and name) is assaulted in Chicago by a woman of latish middle years. News and social media goes wild. So wild that it awakens aforementioned slacker intellectual, Samuel Andresen-Anderson (really?), whose mother, Faye, did the assaulting. Hill is best when the mood is light and frothy: anxiety-ridden students, males in their laughably self-reflexive crises and America on the verge of nervous breakdown. Fun with knobs on.