The book is riveting and darkly funny and, in all senses of the word, unclassifiable ... Bottoms Up returns information to its context, capturing as much as possible the texture of reality, showing us how bewildering it often is ... The arc of Howley’s extraordinary book feels both startling and inevitable; of course a journey through the deep state would send her down the rabbit hole.
Howley manages to push beyond partisan hack work to lay bare the flaws or biases in everyone’s read on Reality ... She illustrates the ways in which the raw data of someone’s life can be culled into a story they didn’t know they had told ... By the time Howley arrives at the story of Winner’s leak, she has methodically primed the reader to see Winner not as a scandal, but as merely one member of a special, if frequently irritating, demographic ... Howley’s capacity for incisive empathy extends to those whom most would dismiss as kooks.
The book is full of suggestive swerves and leaps of association, Howley’s attempts at getting us to look again at subjects and stories that might have been shocking once upon a time, but which we’ve grown used to living with ... Wide-ranging ... Human multiplicity, and irreducibility to data points, seems to be Howley’s North Star, the principle that she is invested in more than any other, and is writing to protect ... Howley doesn’t strongly demonstrate how these stories relate to one another or to her stated arguments, which roam far beyond her central point about the state’s digitally supercharged storytelling powers and into the broader culture ... Bottoms Up is peppered with...confident aphorisms, and it’s often hard to tell whether Howley is working to validate these claims or whether she assumes that readers will accept as common sense her descriptions of the world. Focussing on them in isolation, I sometimes felt skeptical ... Bottoms Up proceeds less by the sequential logic of the proof, or of typical journalism, and more by the associative logic of the mood board. And it works. Howley’s prose reminded me of Don DeLillo’s ... Bottoms Up restores the world to something akin to its original strangeness. It’s a daring approach, and an invaluable one: seeing the world anew makes it feel, in some small way, up for grabs, and this feeling is a precondition for real thought. I still haven’t decided whether I agree with at least half of Howley’s arguments, or the arguments suggested by her method.
Wide-ranging, often chilling ... Written playfully but interpreted as serious, and suggests that we all might be subject to danger from the same sort of posts, preserved without our knowledge in government databases.