Friday, May 14, 2021

Two lanes for the extremely online novel

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The distance from the narrator keeps the reader at a distance; she doesn’t have any authentic, recognizable emotional reactions to the events of the novel, so it’s hard to forget that she’s a collection of postures and tics the author wanted to play with rather than, you know, a rounded character. She can be a bitch, which should be fun, but her bitch is mostly relegated to surly sides in her internal monologue, or petty observations on how she might gloat over the unhappiness of her acquaintances. Narcissists can be very exciting to read, but they have to be dynamic, damn it. Yes American psycho was a book about Patrick Bateman going on extended vacation to think about his weird ex, that would suck too.

The gadgets deployed as generously as the zingers – a Greek chorus of former boyfriends ringing here and there, a section written in an aphoristic style parodying trendy contemporary fiction, nods to autofiction – create noise. , no sense. There is a twist in the final act that turns the protagonist’s apathetic grieving process on its head; or, rather, he would have do this if Oyler hadn’t built such a coreless novel. Instead, there is nothing to significantly subvert. It packs the punch of a talk about rigged carnival games. We do not care? We already knew it was bullshit.

Fake accounts takes into account what fiction can accomplish in the age of Twitter, but that calculation, rather than animating the story itself, suffocates it. The characters filter their identities through screens, and this filtration allows no depth, no emotional resonance. How strange, since Oyler’s review is clearly driven by a strong feeling and a palpable sense of mischief. There is nothing palpable here. What does the internet do to people, to books? The ultimate answer Fake accounts suggests: make them sour and small.

Good news, however! This is not the only answer, nor even the correct one. Oyler isn’t the only extremely online author to publish a book about an extremely online protagonist this month. Poet and memoirist Patricia Lockwood’s Nobody talks about it, also a novel about a young woman obsessed with Twitter, comes out a few weeks later Fake accounts. The books have such an obvious thematic overlap that Oyler recently referred to them as “evil twins.” It’s a beautiful thing when two cultural products so flamboyantly twinned are launched in tandem – like Dante’s peak and Volcano, or Deep impact and Armageddon, they facilitate conversations and debates. In that case, Fake accounts and Nobody talks about it show us two approaches for the same goal: the creation of a novel capable of capturing what the Internet does to people. They circle the same questions about how screens shape life and art. In the end, their answers are nothing alike.

Lockwood’s career has been even more entangled on the internet than Oyler’s. She might be the one person on Twitter that everyone likes. In the early 2010s, she gained an enthusiastic fan base for her string of vulgar and poetic tweets. his decisive moment came with the publication of his poem “Rape Joke” on the now defunct blog The punch in 2013. A self-taught Rust Belt homebody, Lockwood has never lived in New York or got MFA, and social media has served as her primary channel in literary communities, where she has been thrived in reading go for poetry and criticism in all the fanciest magazines.

Written in the aphoristic style of Oyler needles in Fake accounts, Nobody talks about it also focuses on an anonymous protagonist who looks like the author. Like Lockwood, she is a writer beloved for her spiritual presence online. The third-person storytelling describes the protagonist’s world in surreal and deliberately alien terms – the Internet is ‘the portal’, for example – and the first half of the novel unfolds as a series of aerial reflections on what it’s like to be. spend his days scrolling through food after food. Because it’s written by Lockwood, the language is galloping and fun, although I suspect readers unfamiliar with the culture of memes will find it nearly impossible to parse. Some passages echo Oyler’s riffs on contemporary weaknesses, except written in gnomic fragments. (For example: “Capitalism! It was important to hate it, even if that was how you made money. Slowly, slowly, she found herself evolving into a position so philosophical that even Jesus did not ‘could not have held it: that she had to hate capitalism while at the same time loving the montages of films set in department stores. ”)

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