Thursday, September 27, 2018

Nathan Hill, THE NIX

In the end, I liked this novel very much. But for the first two hundred pages or so, I felt like I was reading something between a satire and a realist novel; the characters--particularly the gamer who is overweight and divorced and lives on espresso and frozen burritos, and the entitled college student who plagiarizes her essay but then blames the professor and trumps up charges of feeling "unsafe" in his class to avoid responsibility--these feel so overblown that they verge on caricatures. But somewhere around the middle of the book, the tone changes a bit, and as some backstories emerge, other more rounded characters take over. This is one of those big-hearted, wide-ranging books, both in terms of time and place; and I would certainly try another by Hill.


I found this a valuable book that provides a vocabulary for talking about different models of reciprocity: takers, givers, matchers; it also provides a model that is reassuring in that it suggests that we as individuals can create a ripple effect. (I also appreciate all the studies he cites because I'm a research geek.) We used this as the starting point for a parenting roundtable at my son's school, and it led to a productive discussion about the ways we can create a "giver" environment. I do agree with some other reviews that his examples are largely drawn from the world white men's privilege, and he doesn't reflect upon this; but I liked the idea of the five-minute favor and the giving ring.