The Index of Self-Destructive Acts (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

"This brilliant novel is a complicated history of New Yorkers in the first decade of the millennium. All of the relevant trends are covered within the set of interconnected characters, all family or friends. The book is so clever and insightful into people and motivations. I was laughing and moved at the same time. I did not want it to end."

Recommended by Sarah

— From Staff Picks


“A significant novel, beautifully crafted and deeply felt. Beha creates a high bonfire of our era's vanities. . . .This is a novel to savor.”- Colum McCann

Through baseball, finance, media, and religion, Beha traces the passing of the torch from the old establishment to the new meritocracy, exploring how each generation’s failure helped land us where we are today.

The day Sam Waxworth arrives in New York to write for the Interviewer, a street-corner preacher declares that the world is coming to an end. A data journalist and recent media celebrity—he correctly forecasted every outcome of the 2008 election—Sam knows a few things about predicting the future. But when projection meets reality, things turn complicated. Sam’s assigned a profile of disgraced political columnist Frank Doyle, a liberal lion turned neocon Iraq-war apologist and author of the great works of baseball lore that first sparked Sam’s love of the game (books he now views as childish myth-making to be crushed with his empirical hammer). But Doyle is convincing in person, charming and intelligent. Sam takes a liking to him, and to his daughter, Margo, with whom Sam becomes involved—just as his wife, Lucy, arrives from Wisconsin. 

It’s a precarious moment for the Doyle family. Kit, the matriarch, lost her investment bank to the financial crisis; Eddie, their son, hasn’t been the same since his second combat tour in Iraq; Eddie’s best friend from childhood, the fantastically successful hedge funder Justin Price, is starting to see cracks in his spotless public image. So while the end of the world might not be arriving, Beha’s characters appear to be headed for apocalypses of their own making.

About the Author

Christopher Beha is the Executive Editor of Harper’s Magazine. He is the author of a memoir, The Whole Five Feet, and the novels Arts & Entertainments and What Happened to Sophie Wilder. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Esquire, the New York Times Book Review, and the London Review of Books, among other publications.

Praise For…

Its breadth, ambition, and command are refreshing. An admirably big-picture, multivalent family saga.

Beha’s earlier work has been rightfully compared to the work of Graham Greene, and in this new novel Beha does what only Greene and a handful of other novelists have been able to accomplish: make God, belief, and doubt the stuff of serious fiction—even down to the probing dialogue of his characters. 
— Nick Ripatrazone

A book's worth of thoughtful essays folded into a kick-ass novel.
— Nell Zink

A significant novel, beautifully crafted and deeply felt. Beha creates a high bonfire of our era's vanities. His work reminds me of the great Robert Stone and Theodore Dreiser. This is a novel to savour.
— Colum McCann, author of Apeirogon and Let the Great World Spin

Christopher Beha's seductively complex The Index of Self-Destructive Acts operates like a minute repeater, tiny hammers hitting separate gongs, producing multiple distinct tones but, ultimately, telling one time. And the time that Beha is telling is one that we know, but we haven't heard it told quite like this. Balancing multiple plots and characters with seamlessness and intrigue, The Index is bound to become a must-read of our time.

— Lisa Taddeo, author of Three Women

Beha’s marvelous new novel is about, and more often than not exemplifies, pretty much everything good that New York City has lost in the past few bad years: wit, liberalism, journalism, and the dignity of self-destruction.
— Joshua Cohen, author of Attention: Dispatches from a Land of Distraction

Beha is a sneaky-great plot-maker and thinker; by the time he wraps up this compassionate 21st-century tale of ambitious people looking for somewhere to place their faith—religion, statistics, love, money, country—you can see the clouds starting to gather into the moral Category 5 we’re currently enduring.
— Jonathan Dee, author of The Locals

Ranging effortlessly from baseball statistics to insider trading, and from street-corner prophecy to Romantic Poetry, Beha finds the nuance and humanity in every subject he takes up. The Index of Self-Destructive Acts is that increasingly rare thing: a big, ambitious novel that boldly explores contemporary life in all of its complexities and contradictions.

— Andrew Martin, author of Early Work
Product Details
ISBN: 9781947793828
ISBN-10: 1947793829
Publisher: Tin House Books
Publication Date: May 5th, 2020
Language: English