The Nix

The Nix: A novel

This book is fantastic.

The Kindle rekindled my interest in reading books. Before that I was purely a magazine guy, I needed the immediacy, the truth, books were a backwater I’d abandoned way back when.

And now readers have their knickers in a twist.

That’s exactly the point. These holier-than-thou supposed intellectuals crippled the e-book. By saying paper was better. By overcharging for digital editions. Now if there’s no printing and no shipping, never mind returns, why should an e-book cost as much as a physical book, or close to it, which is now the case? Used to be they were a bargain, every one under ten bucks, Amazon ate the difference, paid pure wholesale to build a business. Why is it we hate that which we love? Like Wal-Mart. No, don’t get me wrong, I never frequent the joint. But I do know people love the low prices. If Main Street sold goods for the same amount it would survive. We live in a hypocritical culture. It’s those who love cheap electronics who deplore the disappearance of manufacturing in America. The ones who want to halt climate change fly around in private jets. And vinyl is trotted out as the future when the truth is it doesn’t make more money than YouTube, but in today’s world facts are irrelevant, emotion is everything. So why is our art absent emotion?

The Kindle got me reading books. I’ve purchased a triple digit number. But I’m part of the problem, not the solution, go figure.

So now I read the book reviews. I triangulate. Try to see what’s worth reading. And I’d delineate my criteria, but the truth is it’s a gut reaction, I know when a book is for me.

And the reviews are usually worthless. Sans analysis, they just repeat the plot. Which eviscerates the need to read the damn book. So, if something seems appealing, I stop reading, and download the sample chapter. Assuming the book is available. Which usually it’s not. Hype always comes in advance. And the urge to check something out evaporates, we’re on to something new in our fast-happening, ever-changing culture.

But this is where the usual suspects react again. I can PRE-ORDER! But I don’t know if I want to. What sounds good is often not good. I buy and read about a tenth of what I download the sample chapter of. Because most people are bad writers. They think writing is intellectual, when the truth is it’s all about soul.

So, the best character in “The Nix” is Periwinkle, a former publisher who gave Samuel his book deal, his business card now says “Interest Maker.”

“‘I’m in the manufacturing business now,’ Periwinkle says, ‘I build things.'”

Sound familiar? In an era where everybody’s a brand, selling tchotchkes at their pop-up shop?

“‘…Mostly I build interest. Attention. Allure. A book is just packaging, just a container. This is what I’ve realized. The mistake people in the book business make is they think their job is to build good containers. Saying you’re in the book business is like a winemaker saying he’s in the bottle business. What we’re actually building is interest. A book is simply one shape that interest can take when we scale and leverage it.'”

Voila! Truth! Which is nowhere in the “New York Times” but is known to me, it’s the view I’ve been preaching. Kind of like the death of Apple. Have you noticed all the stories trashing Apple since the launch of the iPhone 7? I’ve been saying the company is toast for years. And every time I write this my inbox fills up with venom. Because you just don’t challenge the status quo. Because we’re selling optimism. All sunniness and blue skies as the culture tanks.

“‘What’s the big life lesson in Molly Miller’s book?'”

“‘Simple: Life Is Great!'”

Hear me ROAR! Isn’t that what Katy Perry sang, despite the song being about a breakup? It’s a sports anthem, a feel-good ditty, inspiring! Whatever happened to the seamy underbelly, the defeatism and insecurity that art once illuminated?

“‘Well, that’s pretty easy for her to say. Born into money. Prep schools on the Upper East Side. Billionaire at twenty-two.'”

“‘You’d be amazed at the facts people are willing to set aside to believe that life is, indeed, great.'”

Kinda like believing in Gigi Hadid. We don’t care if you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth, as long as you win. Can you say “Donald Trump”?

Now if I hid behind a pseudonym, if I fictionalized this, you could accept it. But the messenger becomes the enemy so most of America is unwilling to testify. Which is why our greatest truth is in cartoons, from “The Simpsons” to “South Park.” And Pixar’s “Wall-E” told us more about the human condition than any live action film. You see we’re all posing.

Molly Miller is a young singer manipulating the public into making her rich.

That’s the American story, how we’re all faking it to get ahead. It’s everywhere, from entertainment to everyday life. Everybody lies, everybody tells people what they want to hear. Rather than songs written from the heart, we have concoctions created by an old guy from Sweden and twenty assembly-line drones. Get that many people involved and no one is responsible. Volkswagen and Wells Fargo are guilty, those who actually made the decisions skate.

So “The Nix” is a story of a mother and a son. A first novel that is overwritten, with too much unnecessary description. But then come the insights and you sit there and smile, you tingle, BECAUSE SOMEONE UNDERSTANDS YOU!

We all want to be understood, made to feel so not alone. But today art makes you feel inadequate. You’re just not connected enough, not rich enough, you can buy some merch but you can never get close.

“This was the price of hope, he realized, this shattering disappointment.”

That’s life in a nutshell. If you risk, you could lose. All the winners say you need to fail to succeed. But they won, we don’t hear from those who risked everything and now have nothing, whose names we don’t know, who owe a hundred grand on their credit cards and no longer have a roof over their heads. We’re taught to play it safe. Because there is no safety net! Everybody who requires one is a wanker! Get a job, pay for your own health insurance. And while you’re at it, be an entrepreneur, build a business. Huh? At least in Canada you can pursue your passion, switch jobs without worrying about losing your health insurance. Whereas in America… You can’ take that risk.

“He wondered why adults felt they needed to be at their most uncomfortable for their most cherished events.”

You put on the tux, pull up the Spanx, all to look good at the important life events. Shouldn’t you be the most relaxed then, instead of angsting that your shoes have set your feet on fire?

“In his imagination of her, Bethany seemed elevated beyond stupid earthly concerns.”

My mother always told us there was someone better, someone smarter, more capable, who deserved the job. Forget that this leaves me feeling inadequate, the truth is I put everybody on a pedestal. It’s only recently that I’ve become aware of their foibles, realized they’re no different from me. And you.

“‘You know, there used to be a difference between authentic music and sellout music. I’m talking about when I was young, in the sixties? Back then we knew there was a soullessness to the sellouts, and we wanted to be on the side of the artists. But now? BEING A SELLOUT IS THE MOST AUTHENTIC THING.”

BINGO! You brag about your endorsements, you list your cowriters, it’s all about hoovering up cash, no matter how you do it. How come this writer far from the music business has nailed it in a way that a decade worth of “Billboard” magazines has not?

“At Willow Glen, all life aimed at avoiding litigation.”

“She cared more about documenting the injury than the injury itself.”

This is the nursing home ethos. It’s America. There’s a deep pocket for every infraction, anybody scathed must be compensated, even if it’s their own damn fault! Forget the right wing anti-tort blathering, that’s just about fattening the wallet of corporations. The truth is in America today, everybody’s playing the lottery. A car accident is a way of making money! So, those with anything to lose play it safe, take less risk, because they’re a target.

“Because she loves the clarity that school brings: the single-minded purpose, the obvious expectations, how everyone knows you’re a good person if you study hard and score well on exams. The rest of your life, however, is not judged in this manner.”

I went to a college of grinds. People who could jump through hoops but could not think for themselves. I peruse the alumni magazine, do I see ground-breaking winners? OF COURSE NOT! These students don’t know how to play the game of life, they just know how to get an “A” in the class. Whereas real life is more amorphous. Which is why oftentimes it’s the uneducated who win, the college dropouts, like David Geffen and Irving Azoff, while those with degrees sit at home in judgment, feeling superior.

“It’s no secret that the great American pastime is no longer baseball. Now it’s sanctimony.”

I’ve never seen this in the mainstream media. Never a comment about where people are coming from, how they’re offended. That’s one place Trump won, he showed us that the unsayable is not. That we can no longer pretend we don’t swear and don’t have prejudices. I’m far to the left of Hillary Clinton, but when I read about trigger warnings on campus my head explodes. What next, your mommy holding your hand through life? Actually, this happens. If one more baby boomer Facetimes with their adult child instead of talking to me after I’ve come to their house… Life is tough, you have to solve your own damn problems. I didn’t call my mother to find out how to use the washing machine on campus, I figured it out!

“Somewhere along the way, you missed your chance.”

There’s life in a nutshell, no one wants to miss their chance. But if you’re not paying attention, if you’re not working real hard, you’re gonna. Are you gonna have regrets?

I’ve got more than a few.

But when I read “The Nix” I feel that someone understands me, comes from the same place. If it was a memoir, the author would be excoriated for being too dark, only by speaking through characters can he evidence the truth.

And despite the hype, right now “The Nix” only has 33 reviews on Amazon. Because it’s 640 pages long, and you’re not entitled to an opinion unless you’ve read it. And right now, most have not.

They review a zillion records every week. Most are never listened to. But they’re available online for free. The fiction is they count, when they don’t.

And it’s easy to watch a half hour TV show. As many as there are, there are many fewer than records, and if you actually make it to the tube, your show has something going for it, someone believed in it besides your parents. Whereas the barrier to entry in music is nonexistent.

So, I don’t expect you to buy this book.

After all, you only read hardcovers, and that would require a trip to the bookstore. Because you support your local indie because Amazon is the enemy even though you’ve got a Prime membership for the free shipping of your vitamins and toilet paper.

But it’s too expensive at the indie store, and it’s a pain in the ass to get there, so despite the lip service you’re helping no one, you’ve just been distracted by that link-bait online, my story of “The Nix” is in the rearview mirror.

But the world we live in is one where everything’s instantly available, just a click away.

Assuming you can slow down your life enough to immerse yourself in art.

But you can’t. We’ve all got this problem. It’s not only fear of missing out, but fear of being left behind. Like if we’re not paying attention 24/7, the joke will be on us.

Unless you’re one of those people who e-mail me that they don’t have a smartphone, Uber is an abomination and Spotify ruined the record business. Tell me how you feel when transportation is suddenly on demand, are you gonna sit at home and not go anywhere? Then you’re gonna get your iPhone, to have the app… The naysayers are just stuck in the mud Luddites who will eventually catch up, or die. Because the future is here.

And in some ways it’s really good.

And in others, it’s totally screwed up.

We’ve got the tools, but we’ve buried our personalities, despite all the social media posts. Those are just our best selves, in arenas full of bragging. Where can you write “I’m at wits’ end and can you come over and talk to me?” I’m talking about the human condition, your hopes, your desires, it’s too risky to admit them.

We used to turn to art, to show us we were not the only one, but part of a giant continuum.

That’s what “The Nix” does, it makes us feel like we belong.

I’m not yet finished. At times it’s boring. But when it nails it you feel like you’re listening to “Gimmie Shelter” the first time through in your pitch-black bedroom.

But maybe you don’t remember that.

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