by Andrew Lipstein
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Pub Date 11 Jul 2023 | Archive Date 31 Aug 2023
In The Vegan, Andrew Lipstein challenges our notions of virtue with a brilliant tale of guilt, greed, and how far we’ll go to be good.
Herschel Caine is a soon-to-be master of the universe. His hedge fund, built on the miracle of machine learning, is inches away from systematically extracting obscene profits from the market. His SoHo offices (shoes optional, therapy required) have been fine-tuned to reel in curious investors.
But on the night of May 12, at his elegant Cobble Hill townhouse, he has something else on his mind—the dinner party he and his wife have devised to woo their new A-list neighbors. When the evening fizzles, Herschel indulges in a devilish prank that goes horrifically awry, plunging him into a tailspin of guilt and regret. As Herschel’s tightly constructed world starts to unravel, he clings to the moral clarity he finds in the last place he’d expect: a sudden connection with a neighborhood dog.
A wildly inventive, reality-bending trip, The Vegan holds a mirror up to its reader and poses a question only a hedge fund manager could ask: Is purity a convertible asset? The more Herschel disavows his original sin, and the more it threatens to be revealed, the more it becomes something else entirely—a way into a forgotten world of animals, nature, and life beyond words.
A Note From the Publisher
Andrew Lipstein lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Mette, and son, August. He is the author of Last Resort.
“You will want to tear through this ingenious tale in one sitting, but I urge you to resist and wallow in the strange, hilarious, whip-smart world Andrew Lipstein has built. Exacting, upending and constantly surprising, I loved this novel.” —Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, author of Good Company
"In his engrossing new novel, Andrew Lipstein has produced a feverish, fantastically surprising parable about guilt, money, and (curveball) the lives of animals. It reads like the unholy offspring of Saul Bellow's Seize the Day and Julio Cortázar's cosmic short fiction, or Crime and Punishment for the Brooklyn brownstone set. I tore through it." —Andrew Martin, author of Cool for America
"Andrew Lipstein's The Vegan is a meaty comedy with a bleeding heart, highly recommended for all animals who read." —Joshua Cohen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Netanyahus
“Engrossing . . . There’s genuine suspense in Lipstein’s meaty novel of ideas. This is well worth the investment.” —Publishers Weekly
“The Vegan is the weirdest novel I’ve read in ages. In a good way. A genre unto itself. Skillfully written and strangely addictive.” —Lionel Shriver, author of Should We Stay or Should We Go
"I tore through Andrew Lipstein’s second novel. Smart, fresh, funny, strangely moving, wonderfully weird and beautifully written, The Vegan is just a terrific book." —Laird Hunt, author of Zorrie
“[The Vegan] uses juxtaposition to surprising effect: philosophy mixes with financial thriller, high capitalism with animalia. But things are never as dissimilar as they first seem—sometimes, the book says, when our lives and beliefs bend so far, they can ultimately make a full circle. A topsy-turvy investigation of that most disorienting question: What does it mean to be a good person?” —Kirkus Reviews
"With mind-bending skillfulness, The Vegan plumbs the back alleys of morality without ever moralizing. This is storytelling that feels sharply contemporary, dizzyingly intelligent, and utterly original." —Allegra Hyde, author of The Last Catastrophe
"Andrew Lipstein’s hilarious, acid-tart, spot-on, and deeply unnerving novel The Vegan follows its privileged narrator as his inability to tolerate his own guilt and complicity deranges him. We can't turn away as he follows his impulse, both righteous and ridiculous, to burn it all down. Lipstein has written a precise, weird, and wildly propulsive take on modern American ethical and moral bankruptcy." —Dana Spiotta, author of Wayward
"A fresh, witty, masterfully crafted morality tale for the modern age. Lipstein has conceived an unforgettable character, terrifyingly real, who could have walked out of an episode of Succession. I absolutely (bordering on obsessively) loved this novel." —Virginia Feito, author of Miss March
"I ignored house and home to read this propulsive story of impulse, guilt, and resolve. A dazzling and resonant allegory for our moral moment." —Julia May Jonas, author of Vladimir
"The Vegan is unexpectedly hilarious in the face of doom. Andrew Lipstein has managed to create gruesomely cinematic scenes within a contemporary landscape of greed, and it's amazing to watch." —Chelsea Hodson, author of Tonight I'm Someone Else
"A sharply observed literary novel with elements of satire and intrigue baked into the mix, The Vegan is a deftly told morality tale for our time." —Jonathan Tropper, author of One Last Thing Before I Go
"A funny, intelligent page-turner, The Vegan explores what it means to have self-determination and to take it from another—or to have it taken from you. It unfolds in a delectably paranoid fever dream that possesses a Kafkaesque strangeness, humor, and moral terror. One of the most entertaining and beguiling novels I’ve read in years. Lipstein has quickly joined the ranks of my favorite contemporary novelists." —Cara Blue Adams, author of You Never Get It Back
"The Vegan is a literary journey as carnal as it is clever. Comedic, profound, and charmingly weird, Lipstein’s second novel is irresistible fare for all bibliovores. Eat up." —Mark Prins, author of The Latinist
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 29 members
"The Vegan" by Andrew Lipstein starts with a slightly Woody Allen vibe of a Manhattan apartment party where Hershel Caine and his beautiful wife Franny invited another influential couple and a friend, Birdie, to, hopefully, establish good social connections. Hershel is a thirty-eight-year-old hedge fund manager leading a happy, stable life, and the future looks bright and wealthy. But a thoughtless prank at the party, which may or may not impact sending Birdie to a hospital, where she falls into a coma, changed everything.
Now, Hershel feels guilty, and the only creatures he finds understand him are animals: a bird on the street, a neighbor's dog, and two lizards he acquired at a pet shop. He sees animals as living in their own world, feeling lonely but strangely close to him. Suddenly, he is repulsed by the sight of meat and becomes a vegan. Adding to his frustration is the situation at his company: an algorithm that was supposed to predict how stocks would perform is doing more than that – it's changing the way the stock market works, so it becomes ethically wrong for Hershel to promote it. Try to tell it to Milosz and Simo, the firm's brilliant software developers, and to a greedy investor discussing his options!
The sudden conversion of Hershel is just fascinating to follow. This is not a midlife crisis or a naive Thoreauian dream of union with wilderness, initiated by guilt, but an idea born from trying to understand humans' connection with other beings and nature. "Language let us forget the sights and sounds of the world, the wheel let us transcend our bodies, artificial light let us control night and day, photography let us outsource and manipulate our memories, books and phones and the internet reduced distances to a point, denied Earth its immensity."
It might sound like such a heavy subject would make this novel difficult, but it's the opposite. This book is hard to put down, both philosophical and humorous, written in beautiful language, touching on subjects of financial investors, conformism, lifestyle status, art, accepting one's roots, fitting in, and sticking out. I haven't been entranced by the book like this in a long time! All elements – the protagonist, the background, and the excellent supporting characters create a novel that moved me into reflecting on our connection with nature and was very entertaining at the same time. I was both surprised (this was my first book by Andrew Lipstein, as I didn't read his "Last Resort" yet) and very impressed! I highly recommend it.
"The Vegan" by Andrew Lipstein follows Herschel Caine, a hedge fund manager whose AI-powered fund is on the verge of making him a billionaire. But after a prank at a dinner party leads to a tragic accident, Herschel becomes consumed by guilt and, in a perplexing decision, becomes a devout vegan. As his life spirals out of control Herschel's love of animals (and disdain for those who don't) becomes more public and more pronounced. As with Lipstein's debut book, "Last Resort," "The Vegan" is impossible to put down. Combining the paranoia of Patricia Highsmith with the satirical eye of 'Succession' Lipstein has crafted a one-of-a kind novel for our time.