About Face: A Novel (Hardcover)
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.
About the Author
William Giraldi is author of the novels Busy Monsters, Hold the Dark (now a Netflix film), the memoir The Hero's Body, and a collection of literary criticism, American Audacity (all published by W. W. Norton). He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Artist Fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and is Master Lecturer in the Writing Program at Boston University.
[A] perceptive tragicomedy... Chaos, violence, and aspirations to fame abound.
— New York Times Book Review
Fame is both empty and destructive in About Face, the razor-sharp literary thriller by William Giraldi (American Audacity; Hold the Dark)... The labyrinthine bureaucracy of assistants and the absurdity of life as part of a celebrity entourage would have been plenty of material alone for a comic novel. The dialogue is frequently laugh-out-loud funny, such as in a discussion between Jovi and Face--argued with the seriousness of the First Council of Nicaea--about the best Bruce Springsteen album. But as Jovi begins to develop a strange sympathy for Face, it also becomes clear that the star has a potentially violent stalker. This gripping tale will keep readers on the edge of their seats while leaving them pondering what makes celebrity--and what it costs.
— Kristen Allen-Vogel - Shelf Awareness