A Nixon Man
By Michael Cahill
(St. Martin's Griffin, Hardcover, 9780312187491, 224pp.)
Publication Date: June 1998
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Winner of the Pirate's Alley Faulkner Award for best new novel
"My father was a Nixon man. Before that he'd been a Goldwater man. On most nights he could be found roaming the house like a ghost, wearing a tattered robe, reading about Ike. But on November 7, 1972, he wore his suit and tie well past midnight."
Thus begins a charming yet realistic coming-of-age novel as seen hrough the eyes of a young boy in San Francisco in the early 1970s. A Nixon Man is a funny, perceptive look at the life of a family holding on during the turbulent Watergate years. It is a story of eccentric heroes, necessary secrets, and innocent schemes gone awry, all told by a precocious eleven-year-old Jack Costello.
The year is 1972. Richard Nixon has just won his second term in office. Jack is sure the President will be around another four years, he's just not sure his family will last that long. In San Francisco, the epicenter of change for a generation, an unlikely cast of characters converges: Jack's inexplicable parents, the hippies who live next door, a sister who can never grow up, and an ill-tempered pet monkey... A Nixon Man filters them all through the charming, frequently bawdy wit of its narrator.
Inspired by the Watergate hearings on TV, Jack sends away for his very own bugging device through an ad in a comic book and unwittingly sets in motion a tragic chain of events. By taping and cataloging his own family's phone calls, he discovers an adult world at least as confusing as his own, but only when he finds out more than he wants to know does Jack understand what it really means to be a Nixon man.
Watergate, the red mud of Vietnam, the fiery, nationwide orgasm of the Apollo missions, A Nixon Man resurrects an era that was over before anyone understood it through the tender, often hilarious voice of an unexpectedly wise child.
Michael Cahill, a San Francisco native, has been a chef, archaeologist, construction foreman and Arctic Circle deck hand. He now lives in Southern California. A Nixon Man is his first novel.
"A Nixon Man is that hardest of all literary genres, the honest American coming-of-age novel. Michael Cahill's writing is lucid and beautiful, but his great achievement is the tender, unsure heart of his main character, Jack. Comparisons with Catcher in the Rye and Rick Moody's The Ice Storm are unavoidable and apt."--Stewart O'Nan, author of Snow Angels
"Michael Cahill's first novel is a funny, wry, wild, and tender coming-of-age story. But the narrator, fast-talking eleven-year-old Jack Costello, isn't the only one to lose his innocence in A Nixon Man... Cahill does a splendid job of capturing a family-as well as an entire country-clinging to its illusions right up until the last possible minute." --Rebecca Stowe, author of The Shadow of Desire
"Truest comedy-in which laughter joins a deep sorrow-is hardest of all. Michael Cahill, in his first novel, has mastered that hard craft. His wry eleven-year-old hero, Jackie Costello, joins Scout Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird and Holden Caufield of Catcher in the Rye in a memorable American line of youngsters who travel east of the Eden of childhood into an adult world twisted with hypocrisy, and who find their own brave truths there."--Michael Malone, author Handling Sin
"Jack's story, with Watergate in the background, is witty, touching, totally engaging, and the tapes he makes of his family are almost as devastating as Nixon's."--Diane Johnson, author of Le Divorce
"A mosaic of human foibles-both sad and hilarious. Michael Cahill writes beautifully and without pretension."--Joy Nicholson, author of The Tribes of Palos Verdes