Sparkling, sweeping debut novel that takes in a large swath of recent American history and pop culture and turns them on their sides.
The reader will be forgiven for a certain sinking feeling on knowing that the protagonist of Hill’s long yarn is—yes—a writer, and worse, a writer teaching at a college, though far happier playing online role-playing games involving elves and orcs and such than doling out wisdom on the classics of Western literature. Samuel Andresen-Anderson—there’s a reason for that doubled-up last name—owes his publisher a manuscript, and now the publisher is backing out with the excuse, “Primarily, you’re not famous anymore,” and suing to get back the advance in the bargain. What’s a fellow to do? Well, it just happens that Samuel’s mother, who has been absent for decades, having apparently run off in the hippie days to follow her bliss, is back on the scene, having become famous herself for chucking a rock at a rising right-wing demagogue, the virulent Gov. Sheldon Packer. Hill opens by running through the permutations of journalism that promote her from back to front page, with a run of ever more breathless headlines until a “clever copywriter” arrives at the sobriquet “Packer Attacker,” “which is promptly adopted by all the networks and incorporated into the special logos they make for the coverage.” Where did mom run off to? Why? What has she been up to? Andresen-Anderson is too busy asking questions to feel too sorry for what his editor calls “your total failure to become a famous writer.” There are hints of Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys as Hill, by way of his narrative lead, wrestles alternately converging and fugitive stories onto the page, stories that range from the fjords of Norway to the streets of “Czechago” in the heady summer of 1968. There are also hints of Pynchon, though, as Hill gently lampoons advertising culture, publishing, academia, politics, and everything in between.
A grand entertainment, smart and well-paced, and a book that promises good work to come.