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. On September 11, 2001, the city’s unfathomable devastation 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.
Doxology isn’t fundamentally a music novel. It has many other things on its mind, including a subversive history of American politics from Operation Desert Shield through the start of the Trump presidency, and it’s superb. In terms of its author’s ability to throw dart after dart after dart into the center of your media-warped mind and soul, it’s the novel of the summer and possibly the year. It’s a ragged chunk of ecstatic cerebral-satirical intellection. It’s bliss ... Zink writes about music as if she were a cluster of the best American rock critics...crushed together under a single byline. This novel is replete with erudite signifiers that drop all over the place, like a toddler eating a pint of blueberries ... Doxology puts [Zink] on a new level as a novelist ... This book is more ambitious and expansive and sensitive than her earlier work. She lays her heart on the line in a way she hasn’t before ... Doxology loses a bit of its sweep, if none of its intelligence, in its final half. Yet it has taken a running leap, regardless, at greatness. Zink writes as if the political madness of the last four decades had been laid on for her benefit as a novelist ... Like a mosquito, Zink vectors in on the neck of our contemporary paranoia. She has got a feral appetite for news of our species, good and ill. As dark as Doxology can be, it’s no wonder that its title means a hymn of praise.
The opening pages of Nell Zink’s irreverent, ersatz social novel Doxology suggest a quirky tale about parenthood and punk rock in 1980s New York. But it soon expands into something bigger, more charming and ambitious ... Zink plays those personal and global calamities against each other, striving to bring two sad, strange notes into harmony. That experimental spirit makes her a distinctive figure in American literature, almost gleefully unimpressed with pieties ... she has a remarkable talent for taking our disorderly world and giving it a shape that feels funny, humane and true.
...surprisingly conventional. This time around, there is no straining against the dimensions of reality, no postmodern backflips. It feels like a quirky genius trying her best to behave at the dinner table ... Her portrait of the parasitic relationship between fans and their idols is hilarious; her take on the record business exposes an industry of endemic pomposity and abuse. Doxology includes an interview from Rolling Stone that is so spot on the magazine could sue for plagiarism if Zink had not made the whole thing up. But about halfway through the novel, history crashes into this plot, and it feels like somebody unplugged the electric guitars. What was initially a brash riff on pop culture becomes, in the story’s next generation, a fairly labored postmortem of the Clinton/Trump campaign ... Zink is an astute critic of our recent election and its alarming abuses, but this shift seems designed as a grasp for weightiness and relevance, which succeeds at the expense of the novel’s humor and surprise. In the same way, a final section about a privileged young woman trying to choose between a wealthy older suitor and a penniless young lover is pleasant, but surprisingly bland. Bring back Minor Threat—and Zink’s electric wit.