Humans of this bankrupt century are so used to holding two contradictory truths in their minds simultaneously – I am privileged / I have problems, we’re screwed / we need to do something, I matter / nothing matters - that their outlooks have become oxymoronic. With brilliant prose and utter fearlessness, Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts accurately captures this sad state of affairs.
Its young narrator – a disaffected Brooklyn blogger - grieves the death of her boyfriend by moving to Berlin and whiling away the time on Twitter, or inventing new identities for herself to test on her OkCupid dates. She’s rudderless, self-absorbed, and hard to like.
In a world ruled by lies, the discovery that her boyfriend Felix was secretly running a right-wing conspiracy Instagram account only makes him more interesting, “his manipulative insincerity was a fair response to the way the world was.” So too are the narrator’s fake accounts of who she is, or might long to be.
In long breathless paragraphs she lets loose with trenchant wit against the shitshow that has been left her and her peers, and no one is spared, least of all herself. Powerless to think or act her way out of this quagmire, she elevates her own narcissism and untrustworthiness to an art form.
Buried beneath the misanthropy, self-obsession and ironic distance is a secret desire for IRL intimacy so foreign as to feel repulsive, a secret desire to be vulnerable which is incompatible with feminist notions of control, a secret desire to be known and to be loved, though both those things are anathema to the way a young person survives in the disembodied late-capitalist horror show that is life in the internet age.
What remains is performance: performing the self as the only way to navigate our consumerist post-truth society. Beyond the cynical but incisive political and cultural commentary is a deep well of sadness that would be overpowering if the book wasn’t so damn funny. Oyler writes without a care for what people might think, which makes her formidable and blistering. I loved and hated this book in equal measures, and yes, I realize that’s perfectly oxymoronic.
Fake Accounts is published by Catapult