A tragicomic novel of a fame-obsessed American society yet again on the brink.
Evoking such classics as Elmer Gantry and The Day of the Locust, William Giraldi’s About Face boldly transfers the perennial literary themes of celebrity, ambition, and obsession to twenty-first-century Boston. There we meet Val Face, a charismatic self-help guru who captivates multitudes with his uncanny ability to heal adherents using only the power of his words, the mysterious touch of his hands, and the transcendent beauty of his face.
Assigned to write a profile of Val Face during his much-hyped New England tour, thirty-year-old impoverished journalist Seger Jovi pens a brutal hatchet job. But Seger, at once curious and incredulous, is soon sucked into the mystic’s vortex of fame, becoming a devotee himself as he contends with the machinations and absurdities of Face’s many protectors, from beefcake bodyguards to helicoptering handlers to Face’s unwavering spouse, Nimble. At first unwilling to sacrifice his principles to fulfill his own ambition and rise from privation, then touched by Face’s unexpected humanity, Seger oscillates between acting as Face’s cynical foil and becoming his unlikely ally.
Just as the exalted guru appears to be reaching the apex of his powers, danger threatens from the periphery in the form of an obsessive stalker who wants Face dead. To curb this stalker before he can do harm, Face’s security team enlists the aid of Jackie Jaworski, an ex-Marine and resourceful Boston detective who moonlights as a novelist of thrillers. And so About Face, building to a denouement that will astonish readers, takes us into the convergence of violence and fame that has come to define so much of American popular culture over the last half-century.
With its indelible array of characters, hypnotic pacing, and shocking conclusion—and “a mesmerizing prose style that is downright pyrotechnic in its brilliance” (Andre Dubus III)—About Face is a novel in the grand tradition that dances along the tenuous line between the sacred and the profane.
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