In this week’s issue, Anand Giridharadas reviews “The New Class War,” by Michael Lind. In 2014, Giridharadas wrote for the Book Review about “The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace,” in which Jeff Hobbs wrote about his murdered college roommate.
The originality of Jeff Hobbs’s work lies in finding a man who lived simultaneously in both countries, who thrived and failed at the same time, who escaped his past and didn’t. Peace used and helped deal drugs while scoring a 1510 out of 1600 on his SATs, putting him in the 99th percentile nationally; he got into Yale and immediately feared getting “curbed,” having his face pressed into the street and a foot stomp on the back of his head until his teeth shattered; he worked in a cancer research lab while using that lab to launder drug revenue.
That one man can contain such contradictions makes for an astonishing, tragic story. In Hobbs’s hands, though, it becomes something more: an interrogation of our national creed of self-invention. It reminds us that there are origins in this country of ours that cannot be escaped, traumas that have no balm. Thirteen years after their first encounter, Hobbs learned over Facebook that his friend had passed away — had, in fact, been murdered in the game he had never stopped playing but had so masterfully hidden from so many.