THE VEGAN, by Andrew Lipstein We should all be feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote, and at this point in climate change, we should probably also all be vegans (at least for part of the week). But in Andrew Lipstein's ingenious second novel, avoiding meat and dairy is a sign that something has gone seriously wrong. Sort of like when Rosemary Woodhouse found herself nibbling on a raw chicken heart , part of the mounting evidence she was pregnant with Satan's child, but in reverse. Like “Rosemary's Baby,” “The Vegan” features young marrieds mulling conception and living in a highly desirable part of New York City — then, a four-room apartment in a Victorian building on the West Side of Manhattan; now, a brick townhouse in Cobble Hill— and a dinner party where a guest is effectively roofied. Only here the perpetrator is the protagonist, one Herschel Caine (which, were you to consult a naming dictionary, translates roughly to “deer killer”): partner at a quantitative hedge fund, with $2.8 million in his bank account, growing qualms about his line of work and a keep-up-with-the-Joneses anxiety about his neighbors, one of whom is a Guggenheim. Irked by his wife Franny's friend, a divorced and garrulous playwright named Birdie visiting from England, Herschel fixes her a vodka cocktail laced with ZzzQuil. The guilt over what transpires will mushroom into more general angst about the human condition in an Algorithmic Age, when God has been replaced by supercomputers and worshipers by “servers” whose operators are like priests. The devil is, maybe, in the data. Lipstein's first book, “ Last Resort ,” likewise had the backdrop of gentrified Brooklyn, with a morally questionable and questioning hero. (Franny, a furniture designer, even appeared in it as a minor character, before her marriage — unless that was a different furniture designer named Franny.) It was clever and funny but insular: a hall of mirrors about authors and the publishing industry. Despite knowing local references — the Italian restaurant Frankies , the Purity Diner with its “Established 1929” sign (“perhaps they were proud to have risen out […]
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