It s an achievement in itself to write a politicalfamily novel that features strange lo fi anti folk nerd bands from lower Manhattan and that I still don t like This meandering tale introduces us to an American family where the parents have roots in the musical counterculture but then flourish in the tech upper middle class while their millennial daughter tries to help save the environment by becoming a political activist So yes Zink apparently tries to reflect society and changing attitudes by describing different enerations including the randparents over time but nevertheless the book has pretty much nothing to say If you look for a stringent narrative concept a message surprising twists and thoughts or elegant prose this is not your book It is very readable and it s not like I had to force myself to finish it but the world did not need this novel sorry Nell Zink The main structural element of the book is a cut 911 divides the text in two halves one focusing on the parents and their friend weirdo rock star Joe the other one centering around on Flora the daughter We all know by now that I just hate meandering stories and this is no exception but what makes it worse is that I did not care for the detached wordy overly descriptive storytelling which in large parts consists of character descriptions and boooooring theoretical reflections on current events listen I am a PoliSci nerd with an unhealthy news addiction who usually loves to spend whole nights discussing current events but with their pseudo critical sermons Zink s characters are jumping the shark even for me Zink is a member of the German Green Party which is not comparable to the American Green Party it is much influential and important a real force to be reckoned with So when her character Flora joins the American Green Party and becomes a campaign staffer for Jill 1 % Stein you should expect some fascinating takes that might derive from the author s personal knowledge of environmental politics but Nope Everything is predictable and the laments re the two party system and the never ending beef between the Democrats are the same ones you ve already read numerous times in case you ve picked up a newspaper in the last four years As the protagonists remain flat there is also no personal angle that might shine a new light on an old story Zink is no Jonathan Franzen Whenever a new character appears Zink ives us some paragraphs with their backstories la tell don t show it s clumsy lazy and it upset me uite a bit So at the core Zink juxtaposes the eneration of the hedonistic 90 s with their plaid shirts and ultimately pragmatic approach to the politicized millennials and the whole thing doesn t live up to its potential There is also a cynical streak in this book that I did not enjoy This is not my kind of writing He started playing ukulele soon after his mother died Even blindfolded I would know that is a sentence by Nell Zink That subtle intersection of the ordinary and the absurd is her trademark maneuver Wit ricochets around her straight faced sentences like marbles in a can Every phrase sounds tossed
off under her breath an irreverent prize for the attentive readerEven the facts of under her breath an irreverent little prize for the attentive readerEven the facts of life sound slightly surreal For a few years she produced a zine about punk musicians and their pets She was discovered by Jonathan Franzen after writing to him about a German ornithologist She has worked in construction and holds a PhD in media studies She is one starts to suspect a character in a novel by Nell ZinkBut despite its eccentricities her latest book Doxology is surprisingly conventional It is a long novel about an East Coast family woven into recent historical and political events This time around there is no straining against the dimensions of reality no postmodern backflips It feels like a uirky enius trying her best to behave at the dinner tableThe first and best section of Doxology is about the unusual friendship between several people born in the late 60s The heroine Pam Rescuing Gus grows up in Northwest Washington to a pair of WASPy parents who To read the rest of this reviewo to The Washington Posthttpswwwwashingtonpostcomentert I have read several books this year that have dealt in some way at times just tangentially with the 2016 presidential election And now here s Nell Zink s contribution to the oeuvre although that portion of her story comes at the end of a fairly long novel dealing with the history of American politics and culture beginning in the late 1980s as experienced by two fairly clueless young people who moved individually to New York City from different parts of the countryPamela rew up in an upper middle class white family in Washington DC She had all the privilege that such an upbringing entails but as she neared the end of such an upbringing entails but as she neared the end of high school years she rebelled against the plans her parents had for her She did not want to o to any of the colleges they suggested she had a different vision for her life And so she packed a few things took what money she could scrape together and took off to New York to pursue her vision She had no contact with her parents after that for many yearsDaniel came from a fundamentalist Christian family in the Midwest He managed to complete college before he fled but he too made his way to New York and the two young people met there through another friend that Pamela had made Joe Harris who was destined to become a rock starThe three of them are devoted to music and they play together in small anonymous bands before Joe becomes famous Pamela and Daniel become lovers during this period and eventually an accidental pregnancy changes their lives They. Pam Daniel and Joe might be the worst punk band on the Lower East Side Struggling to scrape together enough cash and musical talent to make it they are waylaid by surprising arrivals a daughter for Pam and Daniel a solo hit single for Joe As the ‘90s wane the three friends share in one another’s successes working together to elevate Joe’s superstardom and raise baby FloraOn September 11 2001 the city’s unfathomable devastation. ,
Decide to marry and when their daughter Flora is born the three of them together raise her during her early years with Joe providing babysitting when the parents are at workDuring this time Joe continues to pursue his musical career with Daniel as manager and finally he hits the big time and starts raking in the big bucks Then comes 911 and everything changesPamela and Daniel are concerned for their young daughter living in the toxic air that has enveloped New York in the wake of the attacks Pamela contacts her parents and asks to come for a visit They take Flora there and they are all joyfully welcomed After some time Pamela and Daniel return to New York but they leave Flora with the Portrait of a Starter: An Unhidden Story grandparents and there she stays for the rest of her upbringing occasionally making visits to New York to stay with her parents Why the parents so easily agreed to this is one of the mysteries unsolved by the narrative The remainder of the story focuses on FloraSherows up with a fervor to save the planet She attends George Washington University and pursues her interest in climate change and soil erosion She becomes increasingly politicized and when no other jobs present themselves in 2016 she joins the Green Party candidate Jill Stein s campaign She knows that the campaign is a joke but of course it can pose no threat to Hillary Clinton and she just needs to build her r sum Flora meets two men on the campaign trail who are destined to impact her life The first is a cynical middle aged Democratic strategist who understands clearly the existential threat that the Republican candidate poses The second is a young idealistic former Sanders supporter now a staffer on the Clinton campaign I don t want to ive away the entire plot here Zink s novel is a very ambitious and wide ranging delineation of the events of the 1980s up to the current day And mostly I think she delivers on her objectives I found the first part of the novel dealing with Daniel and Pamela compelling but that may have been only because I found it easier to identify with them The story lost some of its steam for me in its second half but on the whole the author dealt with the madness of our political times with intelligence and humor and she has produced a very ood and readable book 35 starsI evangelize for Nell Zink but she s a confusing author I have very positive memories of Mislaid and The Wall Creeper and Nicotine but I don t think I ve iven her than three stars than once She s clearly wildly smart and has interesting things to say about society and capitalism and relationships and the environment but I feel like the stories usually unravel or fail to conclude in a satisfying mannerDoxology focuses on punk adjacent New Yorker parents and their development from scrappy scene kids to unprepared parents to accidental millionaires true Gen X success stories Their daughter Flora is also portrayed in a way that brings the novel into the present to the era of Trump and a DC that is turning into an unaffordable entrified Disneyland Heady to read while you re inhabiting it to be sure The first fifty pages of this made me smile despite myself
BUT THE LAST 200 OR SOthe last 200 or so of this felt like some tedious Ann Patchett shot through every once in a while with morsels of razor Sharp Commentary We Ll See How I commentary We ll see how I in a year s time Doxology isn t really about what the jacket cover says Yes a roup of three young adults start messing around on instruments and create an indie rock roup But the band is a small part of the story I d say this is about politics and the balance of power between old and young men and women and political parties It s one of those stories you start reading Moonrise get into it and then it morphs into something all together different I liked where it wasoing when Joe Pam and Daniel started performing and even had a Fallen Angel: The Passion of Fausto Coppi gig at the notorious Manhattan venue CBGB s But after Pamives birth to Flora the whole focus of the book changes Joe becomes Flora s babysitter On a lark he writes a couple of hit songs and becomes famous And then it s like you start reading a new book The new focus is on Flora Flora s idealism pushes her into a career of soil expert She travels to Ethiopia in hopes of improving the world s farming capabilities We watch her idealism erode as she becomes involved with the politics of the Green Party and her understanding of the career of her new boyfriend He s a pro Clinton democratic political consultant Zink peppers feminism throughout the novel We root for Flora as she must make choices that will alter the landscape of her life Does she o for materialism or love Status or a hopeful future Additional degrees or practical application of her college degree The morally correct thing or t The book blurb ives most of the details of what happens in Doxology Joe Pam and Daniel meet and form a band Pam and Daniel have a baby Flora and Joe s music career takes off We follow the three of them four when Flora arrives until 11 September 2001 when tragedy strikes both New York and the trio on the same day Getting to this point is effectively the first third of the book and is in truth much like many of the other novels that track roups of friends living in New York I feel like I have read a large number of these novels it s a reat city full of interesting characters so it is hardly surprising so many authors h Contains spoilersthis novel is at best wildly overrated i novel is at best wildly overrated I it up after reading a rapturous review spurred by nostalgia for what promised to be a paean to the punk rock scene in my old hometown in the decades prior to 911 The book turned out to be peopled almost exclusively with pri. Coincides with a shattering personal loss for the trio In the aftermath Flora comes of age navigating a charged political landscape and discovering a love of the natural world Joining the ranks of those fighting for ecological conservation Flora works to bridge the wide ap between powerful strategists and ordinary Americans becoming entangled ever intimately with her fellow activists along the way And when the country faces an astonis.