Cover Image: The Vegan

The Vegan

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I was really taken by this one! The setup is immediately high stakes, and I enjoyed the high finance setting (reminds me of the show BILLIONS). I do agree with some other reviewers that this is a novel of ideas, and I was down to feast on them! I admire the author's dialogue and the visceral nature of the story, despite grappling with such large themes. Absolutely want to read more from this author!
Was this review helpful?
This was definitely a unique read. It gave me a lot to think about but I am just not sure it needed to be a novel (even a slim novel). My take is it would have been more effective as a short story.
Was this review helpful?
I love lipstein's writing -- the last resort was great. this has a similar vibe to that but i didn't like it as much. i enjoyed the plot but i didn't feel like i cared about the characters, even in a hate/annoyance sort of way. missing a bit of punch i think.
Was this review helpful?
I absolutely loved The Last Resort but didn't finish The Vegan. I just couldn't quite get into it, because the stakes felt low and the characters seemed so spoiled.
Was this review helpful?
i really really don't think i was the audience for this book; it felt hard to dredge up any sympathy for herschel & the other fintech bros in this story. the plot also hinges on herschel lowkey drugging his wife's friend? idk there were some funny moments & it moved quickly, but ultimately this wasn't for me.
Was this review helpful?
Herschel Caine, the 38-year-old protagonist of Andrew Lipstein’s new novel, The Vegan, is in trouble. He may have, indirectly, killed someone. Or almost killed someone. At the beginning of the book, during a small dinner party in his impressive Brooklyn brownstone, Herschel secretly slips a sleeping aid into the drink of his wife’s old college roommate, a loudmouth lush hogging the conversation, in the hopes this would ‘accelerate her jet lag’. But when this suddenly somnolent guest departs for a cab, she groggily stumbles over the sidewalk and cracks her skull, sinking into coma from which she will never awake.

Is Herschel responsible? Should he confess? No one, not even his wife, Franny, knows what he did, and he worries that telling her will multiply the burden of guilt by simply replicating the same dilemma for her — without improving the victim’s fate. Or is he just rationalising the desire to conceal his crime? (‘I was guilty of a terrible mistake of judgment,’ he admits to himself — then quickly qualifies it: ‘but only in hindsight’) This opening disaster is not merely the occasion for a hypothetical moral exercise; it triggers a profound midlife crisis — maybe even a psychotic episode — in an otherwise proudly ascendant money manager, a millionaire investment banker poised to corner the market with his new algorithmically enhanced hedge fund, Atra Arca Capital Management. For what other travesties might Herschel be responsible?

Though briefly of the belief that his company’s experimental algorithm will make him a billionaire overnight (‘impossibly, unimaginably wealthy’), he unfortunately learns that the program created by his tech-savvy colleagues is criminal rather than magical, illegally manipulating the markets. The twice-guilty Herschel is walloped by remorse and finds he can no longer stomach meat or dairy, effectively converting to veganism. (In a recent interview in Vulture magazine, Lipstein revealed that he himself was affected by a similarly sudden and visceral conversion to vegetarianism.) Is his conscience killing him? Or is it propelling him into an admirably more virtuous state? In any case, he’s losing his mind. He starts to feel a new communion with canines, emotionally bonding with the neighbour’s dog, and a love for lizards, impulsively purchasing a set of anoles from a pet store. At a low point, he takes a nighttime jog to the Prospect Park Zoo, climbs over the fence, and strips down naked in front of a red panda, whose reaction he finds ambiguously validating.

The Vegan works well because Herschel is an interesting narrator — manic and manipulative but also remorseful and introspective. He begins the novel as an intensely vapid defender of greed, a wannabe Gordon Gecko who owes something both to the self-destructive bluster of John Self, of Martin Amis’s Money, and to the psychotic status-consciousness of Patrick Bateman, of Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho. An aggressive social climber and a student of trends and fashions, Herschel strives for ‘a balance between supper club restraint and carnal greed’, mildly obsessing over the menu items at fancy restaurants and even trying to recreate them at home. (He regrets attempting ‘a needlessly complex and desperate beef Wellington’) He’s perfectly at home in a dog-eat-dog world; as an alpha male, he privately worries that his future child (he and Franny have decided to try) will have ‘submissive tendencies’. He would like us to think that this account of his spiral out of control is a mere anomaly, an unfortunate deviation in an otherwise blameless life. But his casual gestures to excessive drinking and childhood trauma betray deeper issues in his character.

Herschel is also an older and more compelling version of Caleb, the 27-year-old Brooklynite narrator of Lipstein’s debut novel, last year’s Last Resort, an entertaining account of an aspiring author who pens a bestseller by stealing the story of a friend. Both Caleb and Herschel belong to what the latter recognises as a type in the business world: ‘the guy with more than enough cunning to make a decent living, but too much to ever do it the right way.’ But whereas Caleb constantly needed to confess and receive absolution, Herschel is much more interested in taking action to repair the wrongs he has caused (even if his personality will almost certainly lead him to commit more wrongs in the future). He wants to be a martyr, to be held accountable and to pay for his sins, but, at the same time, he knows he has very little chance of being perceived as contrite. Even Herschel’s sudden veganism has more to do with personal punishment than with social policy. His new physical inability to eat meat is only, it would seem, by happy coincidence a feature of a superior moral approach to life.

The Vegan is an impressive successor to Last Resort, a stylistically stronger work that establishes the 35-year-old Lipstein as a notable young English-language novelist. The tone of the novel is pitch perfect, that of a slick entrepreneur and snobbish elitist, a man who reads the classics after dinner and then scoffs at their bullshit at breakfast: ‘Sure, it was good with a few glasses of wine, but in the morning it didn’t mean anything.’ The plot is a page-turner, a gradually unravelling disaster that irresistibly invites a rubbernecking reader. And the larger questions lying in the background — are algorithms ethically neutral? Can profit be generated without predation? — are a compelling mix of the timely and the timeless.

In the end, The Vegan pleasingly harks back to an old novelistic tradition of privileging moral crisis. Lipstein offers a rumination, if not a critique, on the contemporary phenomenon of ‘virtue signaling’, the perverse competition, rampant on social media, among liberals to display the most progressive, the most altruistic, the most self-sacrificial behaviour — to one-up the do-gooder next to you. Is a cosmopolite vegan morally superior to a humble BBQ patron? Probably! Unless that vegan is also a murderer, a liar, and a thief.
Was this review helpful?
Herschel Caine is on top of the world -- he is the founder of a hedge fund that is pioneering a new use of machine learning.  He lives in a beautiful Brooklyn townhouse with his wife, next to neighbors that are well known in their circles and they hope to befriend.  When he and his wife host a dinner party to try to build the relationship with their neighbors, they are excited until the night becomes awkward.  So Herschel decides to engage in a prank that he hopes will get things back on track -- but it ends up having unintended and tragic consequences.  This development leads Herschel's carefully crafted life to fall apart as he begins to question all aspects of his existence -- from his job, to his marriage, to his relationship with animals, to even the food he eats.  

This was a highly original examination of modern life and what happens when unexamined choices come under an individual's own scrutiny.  Well written and thought provoking, this is a compelling read.

Highly recommended!
Was this review helpful?
Herschel Caine is on top of the world — or at least, soon to be.  He has just bought a Brooklyn townhouse with his furniture-designer wife, next door to a widely known and respected film director.  He is the cofounder of a hedge fund that is on the verge of using new technology to become fabulously successful, and make Herschel fantastically rich.  

But then at a dinner party at his home with his neighbors who Herschel and his wife are cultivating as friends and one of his wife’s friends from college, things don’t go as Hershel and his wife hope.  So Hershel engages in a prank that at first turns the night around, but then goes horribly wrong.  The guilt in the aftermath of that event causes Hershel to reflect on his life and all his choices — not just committing the prank but his career choice, his marriage, whether to have children, and even what he eats.  As these thoughts come to take over his every minute, Hershel began to not just reconsider his life but to take steps to fix his mistakes that seem reasonable and even necessary to him but increasingly outlandish to this in his orbit.  

I enjoyed this book.  I was a huge fan of the author’s last book, Last Resort, so I was excited to dive into this one.  This book was unlike anything I’ve read in a long time — taking a familiar profile, the prototypical finance bro seeking to move onto the next step of their seemingly inevitable path, and using that jumping off point to explore in an inventive way questions about morality, particularly about typically unexamined choices.   Often through the lens of people’s relationship with animals, the book spotlights interesting and challenging questions that are just below the surface.  One aspect of the narrative I particularly enjoyed was the way it did not present Herschel as the hero or morally superior to the other characters whose choices (previously his own choices) he had some to judge but rather left it to the reader to assess. 

Strongly recommended!
Was this review helpful?
This was a fun book! I was very excited to read this one and it ended up not being exactly what I expected. I still enjoyed reading it for the most part, but it really did not hold my attention. There was a lot of insider business / finance analysis and I expected this to be more of a social commentary. I wish there was a bit more to the magical realism element as well.
I think this was a good book, it just wasn't as much for me as the marketing lead me to believe.
Was this review helpful?
This is a fantastic book. The story is simple enough to allow the imaginings and difficulties that the protagonist faces to rise to the surface. There's something very human about the character. All of his flaws and hopes and fears. 
I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in current literature.
Was this review helpful?
This brisk novel will not be everyone’s cup of tea but it is very sly examination of modern morals, set in the world of finance. The details of hedge fund trading are incredible - there are some real names dropped here. I found the explanations of quantitative analysis fascinating. 

Part financial thriller and part literary fiction, this story follows Herschel Caine as his new trading firm is on the brink of a brilliant new discovery that will impact financial markets and make him and his partners incredibly wealthy. He becomes conflicted about this new technology and, coupled with his guilt over a stupid prank gone terribly wrong, he spirals into a break with reality. 

I love the cover of this book because it’s so descriptive of the actual story. While I was very impressed by the author’s writing style, I would have liked a little more development of the characters. If you are looking for a very unique book, with a very distinctive style, you’ll definitely enjoy this one. 

(𝘐 𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘦𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘥 𝘢 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘱𝘭𝘪𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘳𝘺 𝘤𝘰𝘱𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘣𝘰𝘰𝘬 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘶𝘣𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘷𝘪𝘢 𝘕𝘦𝘵𝘎𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘺. 𝘈𝘭𝘭 𝘰𝘱𝘪𝘯𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘮𝘺 𝘰𝘸𝘯.)
Was this review helpful?
I have no idea what happened in this book. The characters were all abhorrent. Lying, cheating, deceit, etc. And just a bunch of rambling nonsense thoughts. The only thing I felt bad about was the anole.
Was this review helpful?
This one is a bit tricky to review. Basically, Herschel Caine’s seemingly harmless prank goes very wrong and his guilt manifests in an extreme empathy with animals. While I was reading, I thought it was all a bit ridiculous, but when I thought about it after putting the book down, I started to admire it. I began to think of it more as an imaginative way to show how guilt can consume a person, and in ways that we don’t get to choose. Worth a read, for sure.

Thanks to NetGalley and FSG for the advanced copy!
Was this review helpful?
The Vegan is not a book about veganism. It's a book about a man named Herschel who is kind of a tech bro who has a product he thinks the world needs. When he finds out that its a built on a house of cards he changes his life and who he is and becomes a vegan and starts to question things. The other story that plays parallel to that is that he drugs a friends to make her shut up at a party by giving her a ZZZquil cocktail and then she falls and she slips into a coma. Nobody knows he slipped her anything. There is so much more to the novel that I won't give away. The last line of the story is really interesting. Is it a statement on the state of humanity or just a simple fact. I would love to be in a book club group to discuss this and so many other interesting things that happen in this novel. I really look forward to what this author writes after this novel. I read it in one day because I was fasicnated to see where he was going to go with this novel. Well done. Thanks to #FSG and #netgalley for the ARC.
Was this review helpful?
" was the collision of greed and ingenuity with our eternal myopia, our blind faith in progress. We now built things that exceeded even our imagination, by the time we understood the consequences it was far too late...And with every upgrade the human race wrought we saw more and more of ourselves, we saw less and less of the world we'd opted out of, we grew only in confidence, we became bold in our ignorance, we became deranged, obsessed not with who we were but who we weren't...our imaginations were hammers without nails." 

Knowing nothing about this novel, #TheVegan was the BEST kind of surprise a book can offer: thoughtful, funny, dark, and timely. I was intrigued by its cover, title, and description, so I requested an ARC from #NetGalley and they came through. The book hits shelves next Tuesday 7/11/2023 and I think it's going to be very well-received. Herschel Caine has a lot going on. He's about to become wildly wealthy via the deconstruction of "algorithms" within the stock market, while networking with his well-heeled neighbors, and embarking on starting a family with his wife. Then an irresponsible decision sets off a series of dark and irreversible events from which he cannot rebound. The greatest "hit" is to his conscience and he begins to connect, in bizarre ways, to the natural world: animals in particular. An encounter with a neighbor's dog, Lucy, brings him to new realizations and perceptions and it just escalates from there. 

As he begins to fall apart, he also seems to come together--becoming more self-aware and, in his mind, responsible and "honest" while continuing to impact lives around him in strange and detrimental ways. His encounters with nature and animals--from the dog to a red panda and then anoles/lizards he decides to adopt--are laugh out loud funny. This is a strange and beautiful novel, a sophomore release for #AndrewLipstein. I'm excited as I missed his well-received debut, Last Resort, which will now go straight to the top of my "read" pile. This happened recently when I discovered Hanna Halperin through her second novel - I Could Live Here Forever - and quickly located her debut Something Wild. 

I truly enjoyed this book and its relevance to our modern day world--the ways we perceive and deceive ourselves and those around us. Thanks #NetGalley!
Was this review helpful?
A tough call on this.  Herschel, a hedge fund genius, has a new product about to come on line except that it's going to ruin portions of the economy but he's living it up.  Until a prank (not funny) where he drugs his wife's best friend Birdie at their dinner party and puts her in a coma, he's living on top of the world. Suddenly, he finds himself believing that only animals understand him and this sends him to veganism as he's spinning out of control and trying to figure out how to save his career.  He's loathsome.  I understand that the details were needed for the story but honestly, much of the finance stuff went past me.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  This is a novel of ideas- and mental health- that won't be for everyone but give it a try.
Was this review helpful?
Delighted to include this title in the July edition of Novel Encounters, my regular column highlighting the month’s most anticipated fiction for the Books section of Zoomer, Canada’s national culture magazine. (see column and mini-review at link)
Was this review helpful?
The Vegan by Andrew Lipstein follows a hedge fund manager as he spirals into veganism and a moral quandary after pulling a “prank” on one of his dinner guests. Although, I wouldn’t call drugging someone with ZzzQuil and vodka a silly little prank.

Before this dinner, Herschel has no issue with eating meat but slowly begins to be repulsed by it. He also starts feeling a connection with animals, including his neighbour’s dog. 

The book presents Herschel Caine as a successful man in finance, but to me, he just came off as an arrogant finance bro. I get that it is supposed to be a tale of greed and morality, but it failed to hold my interest. I had zero interest in the discussions on hedge funds and the company’s super-algorithm. I almost DNF’d it multiple times but persisted since it is a fast read. Except for Herschel, character development is practically nonexistent. 

I am not the right reader for this book, but someone else might be.

Thank you to the publisher for providing an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
TW: drugging someone without their consent, sexual assault, arson

Herschel Caine runs a hedge fund and has developed an algorithm that will revolutionize the economy, possibly at the expense of the middle class (um…like always?). The closer Herschel gets to financial success that he never fathomed, the more of an affinity he has for animals and sees consuming them as grotesque. It begins when he feels an emotional connection to his neighbor’s dog, saying that he can sense her emotions and that she feels trapped (projecting much? Herschel is the one who is likely feeling trapped by his life choices!). You might start to feel sorry for him, until he essentially drugs his wife’s best friend, which leads to her accident and coma (don’t mix ZzzQuil and vodka people). 

He becomes increasingly unstable as the book progresses, breaking into the Prospect Park Zoo, buying anoles, then leaving them unattended leading to the death of one of the lizards. Then he vacillates between loving and hating his wife with such a speed that I think he needs to spend more time with his therapist. Herschel and Franny are supposed to be trying to conceive but I think she should be trying to find a divorce lawyer. He then shifts between wanting to eat animal products to being outright disgusted by them. I could barely keep up with Herschel and his moods. He also becomes increasingly unstable at work, while reliving past experiences of sexual assault and it becomes clear that Herschel is projecting his feelings of being trapped on to the animals he in encountering. 

I think it’s apparent that I didn’t enjoy this novel. I can vibe with an imperfect character and there can be method to the madness, but Herschel seems to be all madness and no method. He’s hurtful, ruthless and delusional. It’s sad to think that there are men like him running our economy with unchecked mental health issues and money to burn. 
Thank you to Netgalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for permitting me to read this work prior to its release.
Was this review helpful?
Andrew Lipstein invokes the world of high finance, financial shenanigans, those who "have it all" but aren't satisfied.  We learn about ownership and guilt, striving for even greater satisfaction and recognition, and the potential dangers of AI in the financial world.  As if we weren't being warned about THAT every day on the news.  But Herschel Caine finds his world in an uproar thanks to a potentially lethal practical joke he pulls on someone, and his turmoil sends him off into introspective forays around the City.  Herschel is not particularly likeable, which is one of the pluses of the book for me.  I like reading about complicated characters, and while I wouldn't want them for a friend or even a dinner partner, I enjoy watching from the sidelines as they implode.
Was this review helpful?