Big If by Mark Costello
A Novel

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It is, so far as I know, the only great novel ever written about the Secret Service. Part thriller, part black comedy, it belongs on the same high shelf as the best books of Don DeLillo and Jonathan Franzen.
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Synopsis

A scary, funny novel—a riff on recent history and the American obsession with assassination.


It's winter in New Hampshire, the economy is booming, the vice president is running for president, and his Secret Service people are very, very tense.


Meet Vi Asplund, a young Secret Service agent mourning her dead father. She goes home to New Hampshire to see her brother Jens, a computer genius who just might be going mad—and is poised to make a fortune on Big If, a viciously nihilistic computer game aimed at teenagers. Vi's America, as she sees it in the crowds, in her brother, and in her fellow agents, is affluent, anxious, and abuzz with vague fantasies of violence.


Through a gallery of vivid characters—heroic, ignoble, or desperate—Mark Costello's hilarious novel limns the strategies, both sound and absurd, that we conjure to survive in daily life.

 

About Mark Costello

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Mark Costello, who worked as a federal prosecutor, is the author of the National Book Award Finalist Big If. He lives in New York. David Foster Wallace was born in Ithaca, New York, in 1962 and raised in Illinois, where he was a regionally ranked junior tennis player. He received bachelor of arts degrees in philosophy and English from Amherst College and wrote what would become his first novel, The Broom of the System, as his senior English thesis. He received a masters of fine arts from University of Arizona in 1987 and briefly pursued graduate work in philosophy at Harvard University. His second novel, Infinite Jest, was published in 1996. Wallace taught creative writing at Emerson College, Illinois State University, and Pomona College, and published the story collections Girl with Curious Hair, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, Oblivion, the essay collections A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, and Consider the Lobster. He was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Award, and a Whiting Writers' Award, and was appointed to the Usage Panel for The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. He died in 2008. His last novel, The Pale King, was published in 2011.
 
Published August 15, 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company. 317 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Literature & Fiction, Humor & Entertainment. Fiction
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Reviewed by Ben Dolnick on Oct 03 2014

It is, so far as I know, the only great novel ever written about the Secret Service. Part thriller, part black comedy, it belongs on the same high shelf as the best books of Don DeLillo and Jonathan Franzen.

Read Full Review of Big If: A Novel | See more reviews from NPR

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