FICTION

The Index of Self-Destructive Acts

Tin House. May 2020. 528p. ISBN 9781947793828. $27.95. F
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New York, April 2009. The recently imploded economy is struggling to recover. Self-proclaimed prophet Herman Nash stands on a fountain in Washington Square and declares that the world will end on November 1. Nash’s frequent rants go viral on the social media platform Teeser, owned by billionaire Mario Adrian, who gives Max Blakeman, editor of Adrian’s gossipy magazine, Interviewer, free rein to lure Madison, WI, baseball–turned–political data analyst phenom Sam Waxworth to the city for a high-paying job. Waxworth is to blog on Teeser and write an in-depth piece on disgraced political columnist Frank Doyle, who cratered his decades-long career with a drunken racist comment about President Obama. Meanwhile, Doyle’s son Eddie has little interest in his trust fund, daughter Margo sets her sights on married Sam, and wife Kit feels cornered by an extraordinarily bad decision. As the lives of these and other characters become further entwined and compromised, Nash’s wild rantings look more prophetic than any data-driven prediction Waxworth could ever have imagined making.
VERDICT Harper’s Magazine editor Beha (Arts & Entertainments) brings to messy life a post-9/11 New York City in a character-rich novel that’s funny, poignant, prescient, and somehow sweetly deft in the willing suspension of disbelief as a syzygy of coincidences careens toward a perfect storm.

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