The Gentleman Recommends: Nathan Hill

Posted on Monday, December 19, 2016 by Chris

It is understandable that the average American is pressed for time, what with all the vacation butlers take, and the various board meetings, galas and cocktail hours that beckon so vigorously. So, as you study the 12 recommendations this gentleman has made in 2016 searching for the one that is most worthy of your limited reading time, consider this a clue: The GENTLEMAN’S ULTIMATE RECOMMENDATION for 2016 is “The Nix” by Nathan Hill.

The Nix book coverI’d like to write a few thousand considered and enthusiastic words about how great this novel is, but because I must prepare for a gala, I’m going to plagiarize myself from an article printed in last week’s Columbia Tribune and quote from the book. The quotes from the novel should be sufficient to persuade you that Nathan Hill has written a genius novel, and lazily plagiarizing myself should convince you that thoughts of the impending gala are thoroughly distracting me.

Let’s consult me: “The Nix” is one of my favorite reading experiences in recent memory. It is a thorough examination of what happens when, over two decades after abandoning her husband and 11-year-old, a woman hits a presidential candidate in the eye with some gravel. It’s a 600-page masterpiece that manages to consistently offer both comedy and heartbreak. Every scene has something to enjoy and admire, and the way it parcels out new questions just as it answers old ones will make it difficult to put down. It satirizes, among other things, politics, the media, college culture, literary culture, online gaming, social media and diet fads.

Now, some quotes:

“What’s true? What’s false? In case you haven’t noticed, the world has pretty much given up on the old Enlightenment idea of piecing together the truth based on observed data. Reality is too complicated and scary for that. Instead it’s way easier to ignore all data that doesn’t fit your preconceptions and believe all data that does. I believe what I believe, and you believe what you believe, and we’ll agree to disagree. It’s liberal tolerance meets dark ages denialism. It’s very hip right now.”

“This sounds awful.”

“We are more politically fanatical than ever before, more religiously zealous, more rigid in our thinking, less capable of empathy. The way we see the world is totalizing and unbreakable. We are completely avoiding the problems that diversity and worldwide communication imply. Thus, nobody cares about antique ideas like true or false.”


Pwnage once told Samuel that the people in your life are either enemies, obstacles, puzzles, or traps. And for both Samuel and Fay, circa summer 2011, people were definitely enemies. Mostly what they wanted out of life was to be left alone. But you cannot endure this world alone, and the more Samuel’s written his book, the more he’s realized how wrong he was. Because if you see people as enemies or obstacles or traps, you will be at constant war with them and with yourself. Whereas if you choose to see people as puzzles, and if you see yourself as a puzzle, then you will be constantly delighted, because eventually, if you dig deep enough into anybody, if you really look under the hood of someone’s life, you will find something familiar.

This is more work, of course than believing they are enemies. Understanding is always harder than plain hatred. But it expands your life. You will feel less alone.

The gentleman recommends that we try to solve some puzzles.