Two Paths for the Extremely Online Novel
Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts and Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This ask the same questions about the internet. Their answers sound nothing alike.
“WHY WOULD I want to make my book like Twitter?” the narrator of Lauren Oyler’s new novel, Fake Accounts, wonders. “If I wanted a book that resembled Twitter, I wouldn’t write a book; I would just spend even more time on Twitter. You’d be surprised how much time you can spend on Twitter and still have some left over to write a book.”
Oyler knows about Twitter. She had her first big social media hit when she reviewed Roxane Gay’s best-selling essay collection Bad Feminist for the blog BookSlut in 2014. The review dripped with piss and vinegar; it starts out, “I have always hated Roxane Gay’s writing,” and it doesn’t let up from there. Oyler is a consistently entertaining critic. Even when you don’t agree with or understand her arguments, they’re amusing. Which is to say, she isn’t boring. (That’s the nicest thing anyone should say about criticism, by the way. A critic one agrees with all the time—a critic who makes perfect sense—cannot possibly be interesting.) As Oyler describes herself, she’s an honest skeptic in a blurber’s world, a swashbuckler lunging to pierce marketing hype. Writers worry about getting reviewed by her, and they should worry, which is exciting. High standards are a critic’s gift. Her first novel is surprising, then. It’s a book I’d expect her to flambé, had she not written it.