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Doxology Reviews

Doxology by Nell Zink

Doxology

Nell Zink

3.64 out of 5

7 reviews

Imprint: Fourth Estate Ltd
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 19 Aug 2019
ISBN: 9780008323486

Two generations of an American family come of age - one before 9/11, one after - in this moving and original novel from the "intellectually restless, uniquely funny" (New York Times Book Review) mind of Nell Zink

3 stars out of 5
Sarah Ditum
14 Sep 2019

"Time, tide, and the sacred in the everyday – 50 years in the Big Apple"

Doxology covers five decades and a spacious 400 pages, with all the subplots and digressions you would expect of a baggy monster realist novel. It moves from the subculture of straight edge punk to the backrooms of political powerbroking, and surveys ground from East Harlem to rural Ethiopia. There are at least half a dozen characters who take command of the narration for a substantial chunk of the story, and many more whose consciousnesses we breeze through as cameos. Yet the overall feeling isn’t of plenty, but of precarity. From the opening sentence, it seems that time is always about to run out.

Reviews

4 stars out of 5
Sam Leith
12 Sep 2019

"This multi-generational novel about music, environmental politics and the condition of innocence is generous-spirited and very funny"

[Doxology] is a big, loping, digressive multi-generational novel, telling several stories, of the sort you don’t see all that much in literary fiction these days. Point of view scoots merrily from character to character, major or minor, as suits the narration. And Zink blithely ignores that silliest cliche of literary advice: show, don’t tell. She’s a teller, the book is full of information, and her pert authorial commentary is part of the fun... Sentence by sentence it is wry and very funny, generous in spirit and full of the quick of life. Its irony is warm. Like Joe, it sings - as Gerard Manley Hopkins would have it - in praise of everything fickle, freckled, swift, slow, sweet, sour, adazzle, dim. It’s a doxology, after all.

3 stars out of 5
10 Sep 2019

"Doxology is invigorating and intermittently brilliant"

Doxology is invigorating and intermittently brilliant. Yet as the plot grows manic, the hardboiled sass of the prose turns perfunctory; and when, late on, an apocalyptic miasma leads to little but a riff on how Fox News decides the pollution cloud is less noteworthy than an item on the optimum thickness of spaghetti, there’s a sense that, for Zink, endings remain elusive.

3 stars out of 5
8 Sep 2019

" has a seams-on-show, first-draft wildness about it"

Zink’s style is certainly vivid and outlandish, morally adventurous and uncontained, but it is a hard one to sustain over four hundred pages. Perhaps more gravely, it causes her to use words like ‘betwixt’ and ‘beaucoup’ for no reason and without warning. Doxology reminds us that the most striking overall work is not necessarily that composed of the most striking individual elements.

4 stars out of 5
6 Sep 2019

"Doxology feels more substantial and solidly-wrought than Zink’s prior work"

Doxology feels more substantial and solidly-wrought than Zink’s prior work. Most recently, Mislaid and Nicotine were unassuming yet arresting, but there was a performative feel: exuberant but jerry-built; their loose ends gathered up rather too neatly. Doxology leaves things untucked... Antigravity plotting contributed to Mislaid’s hectic whimsy, but it jars in an otherwise-grounded novel. Of a piece: a disembodied hamminess of speech – characters sounding like repartee-slinging aesthetes yucking it up over brandy and cigars. In a less virtuosic novel the reader might bog down. It’s testament to Doxology’s verve that you’re propelled through.

4 stars out of 5
Stephanie Cross
5 Sep 2019

"Zink injects all of this with her usual deadpan hilarity, while her cast of inimitable misfits are never in danger of being overshadowed by her larger concerns"

This is a typical Zink novel, in that it’s totally unpredictable. It begins with a deep and learned dive into the early 1990s New York punk scene, concludes sometime after the 2016 U.S. election, and features an interlude in rural Ethiopia where the central character, young activist Flora, is studying environmental degradation... But plot has never been a selling point with Zink, and, in any case, the random nature of life is one of Doxology’s themes. What this book is interested in is how we engage with that randomness, as well as with such intractable conundrums as social justice and climate change.

Fortunately, Zink injects all of this with her usual deadpan hilarity, while her cast of inimitable misfits are never in danger of being overshadowed by her larger concerns.

4 stars out of 5
Lucy Scholes
30 Aug 2019

"The novelist delivers yet another rewarding exploration of family dysfunction"

Doxology is part rambunctious group picaresque, part whip-smart sociological treatise. From the 1980s hipster — he “couldn’t gentrify a neighborhood. He wasn’t gentry. His presence drove rents down [ . . . ] the shortlived cap of spume on the dirty wave of working-class higher education” — to the millennial — “Older people might get excited about seeing their names in a magazine. [Flora] had grown up applying a cost-benefit analysis to the potential instantaneous worldwide accessibility of every word she said” — Zink speedily locates the pulse points of a generation.