It was apparently impossible for the New York Times' Charles McGrath to hate novelist Nick McDonell, once they met in person. Thankfully, as we are merely stealing from McGrath and not meeting young Nick, we shall not have that problem.


His father is Terry McDonell, the editor of Sports Illustrated, and he grew up in the kind of gilded New York household where Joan Didion, Jay McInerney and George Plimpton were drop-in guests. His godfather is Morgan Entrekin, the publisher of Grove/Atlantic, who bought Mr. McDonell's first novel, "Twelve," when Mr. McDonell was just 18. He heard news of its acceptance while cruising home in the carpool from Riverdale Country School, where he was president of the student body.

So that was his upbringing, and now he is a young literary success. His first novel was about "the downward-spiraling adventures of some druggy New York private-school students over Christmas break." His third novel—on sale Wednesday!—"ingeniously combines elements of a le Carré or Graham Greene-like international thriller with a campus novel set at Harvard, from which Mr. McDonell graduated in 2007." Yes, of course.

He has already published "a brief memoir" of his time at Harvard (well, it was published in France). That time, it seems, was colored by a certain "detachment" from the escalation of the war in Iraq—a war arranged and waged by Ivy Leaguers, you see! Conflict! (He also published a second novel, about, according to Wikipedia, "a 19-year-old Harvard student who is deeply affected by time he spends in Bangkok working as an intern reporter.")

The movie version of his first book (the one about private school kids taking drugs) is filming now, in the West Village. Batman Forever auteur Joel Schumacher is directing it! "It's sort of like Margaret Mead," Joel Schumacher says. "For Nick to have written this at 87 would be staggering. I keep asking myself how could he know all this at 17?"