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Date TimeSeptember 12, 2019
VoiceThis multi-generational novel about music, environmental politics and the condition of innocence is generous-spirited and very funny“Doxology” is the name given to a short hymn of praise in the Christian liturgy. Nothing to do with doxxing – putting people’s private information on the internet – though the implicit pun ghosts through Nell Zink’s new novel all the same. The title is a bit of a challenge, then: it asks the reader, why is a long book mostly set between Washington DC and Manhattan between the late 80s and the present day, and mostly about families and punk rock music and environmental politics, called after a semi-obscure bit of devotional jargon?
Doxology by Nell Zink review – punk rock and devotion
The term itself appears in the text only once that I noticed, on the second page, when – the story moves pretty fast – the protagonist’s mother is being buried. That protagonist is Joe Harris, who has a rare developmental disorder. “Unknown to all, and for as long as he lived, Joe Harris was a case of high-functioning Williams syndrome,” Zink writes. Joe’s condition manifests itself in a sort of Forrest Gump-like ingenuousness. He makes friends with strangers, believes everything everyone tells him, and operates in the world without self-consciousness or calculation. He sees his mother off with “Bye-bye, Mommy!”, and hearing “Father, Son and Holy Ghost” at the funeral, “lifted his voice meaningfully”.

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