In this collection of always trenchant and at times luminous essays, [Tolentino] establishes herself as the important critical voice she has been on her way to becoming for some time, although comparisons with Susan Sontag and Joan Didion seem to me unhelpful—as if, for a woman writer, theirs are the only hills to climb ... Tolentino wants to have it both ways—to preserve her integrity while going along with the game. But having it both ways simply increases the difficulty of deciding where, in all of this, she belongs, and her awareness of this truth constitutes the unsettling core of her book. Tolentino knows she is implicated in the world she lays out here with such merciless precision ... Tolentino always has her eye out for the ugly history, the stain on the carpet that so many refuse to see ... It is easy to be lured by the exhilaration—the fun, even—of these essays, and to miss the depression, not to say nihilism—a word Tolentino uses—that runs beneath the stream ... Sometimes the energy and verve of Tolentino’s writing can feel slightly manic, oddly in sync with what it claims most passionately to hate. Just for a second, it can tempt you with the insane idea that you might be able to pole-vault over the horrors and injustices of the day. But only if you are blind and foolish enough, or have beauty and eloquence to spare ... Tolentino is especially cogent on how sex muddies the waters of reason and seems to have the power to turn the faintest hint of progress on its head ... Tolentino would not be such a gifted diagnostician if she did not at moments seem to hedge her bets on these matters. Her entire diagnosis of the ills of the world would be invalid if she pretended, like a bad psychoanalyst, to be immune to what she describes. It is because she is a self-confessed unreliable narrator that we trust her.
...[a] phenomenal essay collection ... a collection that feels somehow riskier than [Tolentino's] usual output, unburdened by the demands and constraints of a big, mainstream publication ... Tolentino finds...little truths in just about every corner of American cultural life. Her best pieces read like viral Twitter threads written by the Frankfurt School, seamlessly blending cynical humor with academic rigor ... As somebody who could be considered very online even during the early days of the internet, and who is now dependent on the internet for her livelihood, there are few forced to navigate it's machinery the way [Tolentino] is. 'I don't know what to do with the fact that I myself continue to benefit from all this: that my career is possible in large part because of the way the Internet collapses identity, opinion and action,' she writes. It's this kind of constant self-awareness and inward inquiry that give Trick Mirror its most chewable moments ... More often than not, the essays here end up concluding with a well-articulated shrug of the shoulders. If you're expecting feminist praxis, or ways of repairing the many broken and flawed systems being critiqued in Trick Mirror, you won't find much of either here. But there's an undeniable catharsis in seeing such a great writer lucidly communicate the conditions of our most absurd forms of misery.
[Tolentino's] voice here is fully developed: She writes with an inimitable mix of force, lyricism and internet-honed humor. She is the only writer I’ve read who can incorporate meme-speak into her prose without losing face ... This kind of fatalism, dispiriting but perhaps fair, runs through the book ... Tolentino’s earnest ambivalence, expressed often throughout the book, is characteristic of millennial life-writing, and it can be contrasted with boomer self-satisfaction and Gen X disaffection in the same genre. Though she never presumes to be anything like the voice of a generation, Tolentino is a fair representative ... a cri de coeur from a writer who has been forced to revise her youthful belief in American institutions ... As a reader (and a fellow millennial), I could have done with more essays like Ecstasy, in which contradiction felt enriching, or generative, rather than imprisoning. I credit Tolentino for examining her complicity in the structures she critiques, but at times I wished she would go easier on herself, or that she’d keep working to transcend the contradictions she observes.
Tolentino['s]...heedlessness, chased by total clarity, is what gives her voice such authority, like the coolest Big in your sorority ... At times in these essays, the thesis gets swamped in examples ... But Tolentino is winningly aware of her own excesses ... Tolentino actually seems comfortable leaving a negative last impression. For all the energy and intellect she devotes to understanding her bad habits, she knows she’s unlikely to reform ... The collection seems driven by that central paradox: Tolentino has thrived under the conditions she criticizes ... The freshest writing in Trick Mirror comes out of physical experiences (a Peace Corps stint in Kyrgyzstan, doing drugs in the desert) that take Tolentino outside herself. Acid aside, though, she doesn’t offer much hope of breaking free of the systems she describes. Solipsism wins ... It’s reassuring to have Tolentino as a guide—even if, in her telling, there may not be any exits.
Tolentino’s debut collection of nine essays, Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, comes at a crucial point where the internet chimera of identity, culture, and politics has mutated beyond recognition. Where many of us recoil in terror, Tolentino buckles up and enters the fray ... Tolentino’s writing is not just deft and insightful—it’s thrilling. It’s edifying. It has the effect of making you feel smarter and sharper without diminishing your sense of recreation or discovery, like a very good study drug ... What is so compelling about Trick Mirror is that Tolentino does not stop her interrogation where it is neat and convenient to stop ... While Tolentino’s cultural criticisms shine in their clarity, it is her personal essays—charismatic, magnetic, at times dazzling—that I consumed like candy ... More than anything else—her clarity of insight, or brilliance with words—Jia Tolentino has a talent for evoking an uncanny feeling that she has read your mind. Trick Mirror somehow feels as much an extension of my own life as it is of hers.
...the most autobiographical essays in Trick Mirror are those that most steadfastly reject distress, adopting instead a slightly distanced optimism. They give the impression of an author who believes that our most private and painful experiences are often not, in fact, the ones through which we learn the most ... The tone of these essays can partly be attributed to Tolentino’s temperament. 'I value control almost as a matter of etiquette—as an aesthetic,' she says at one point, and it’s true that her writing, lively and funny and poignant as it often is, resists big emotional crescendos ... Some of the hand-wringing in Trick Mirror may go too far. Criticizing something can bring it to a larger audience, but the alternative—a world in which writers only cover subjects of which they approve, ignoring the complicated, the compromised, and the outright pernicious—is not preferable. Elsewhere, the hand-wringing seems to substitute for action that is not, in fact, beyond reach ... The speed with which Tolentino wraps up her essays after grappling with her complicity suggests that this question is unanswerable ... The most effective essays in Trick Mirror are those that encourage us to be suspicious, and to look for the moments when we can act—without self-flagellation or declarations of virtue—on those suspicions, rather than on our desires.
She writes with incisiveness and moral urgency about the way online platforms confuse being politically active with merely seeming so through the endless self-presentations of images and tweets ... The pleasure of these essays lies in watching Ms. Tolentino grapple so rigorously and honestly with such fraught subjects—for instance, the history of gendered violence at the University of Virginia, her alma mater, and the disastrous Rolling Stone story about an alleged gang rape there. At times, it also lies in her ruthless wit.
Supple and incisive, with a gift for unexpected intuitive turns and juxtapositions, [Tolentino] was formed online, in the years she spent as an editor and writer for the Hairpin and Jezebel before becoming a New Yorker staff writer. And her work is marked by that environment – in which you must be swift, bold and flexible, playful but persuasive, willing to perform yourself close-up and ready to be attacked for it, constantly aware of how you’re seen, competing for elusive attention, preparing for immediate counterargument ... part of what her pieces reveal is that harsh, seductive, disorienting environment itself, as bleak and fragmented as it is glossy ... Perhaps it’s no coincidence that two of the strongest essays, the most sinuous and expansive, examine turf [Tolentino] has known intimately and returned to after an absence, as opposed to waters she still swims in ... Most striking are the moments that fully transcend the logic of a think-piece, the embodied metaphors that break beyond explicit argument.
...announces a major talent in the art of the essay ... In an essay titled 'Always Be Optimizing,' Tolentino looks at 'the ideal woman,' the one you see posting about her workouts, children, and garden on Instagram ... Tolentino isn’t mocking such women — she writes (often hilariously) about her own experiences in yoga and barre class and wolfing down yet another chopped salad. What makes the essay more than simple cultural observation is Tolentino’s critique of the economic and societal forces that twist women into such an unsustainable set of contradictions ... Pessimism about false promises might turn out to be the cultural legacy of Tolentino’s generation, the much-maligned millennials. The best essays in the collection aim directly at these outrages — the few that stray from it tend to work less well ... If anything can save us, it just might be the snap of Tolentino's humor, the eloquence of her skepticism.
In this deft collection that covers everything from internet addictions to women’s empowerment to reality TV, all roads lead to capitalism. (The best stuff in the book, even so, tends to be more personal and less critical, particularly one gorgeous piece covering psychedelics and religion.)
The book is a blessing to read simply because of its blade-sharp metaphors alone, which Tolentino crafts with the precision of a heart surgeon and the ingenuity of a writer who can come up with better comparisons than the cliched heart surgeon ... Tolentino is both hilarious and deadly accurate ... But the book’s pivotal work lies in its documentation. Tolentino is essentially a historian of our time. Each piece in Trick Mirror examines the sociopolitical and economic factors that made her generation what it is today ... Regardless of their method, each essay is ruthless in its truth-finding, which is, perhaps, the ethos of Trick Mirror ... reveals and breaks down modern-day truths that are unappealing, but necessary to understand. There is no doubt that Tolentino’s work will go on to be preserved in digital libraries like JSTOR (or whatever we’ll have in the future), destined to be pored over and cited as the work of historical documentation that it is. If the climate-change apocalypse does happen and the internet finally meets its doom, then hopefully the pages of Trick Mirror will survive as a testament to what once was ... No matter what, Trick Mirror is evidence that Jia Tolentino must — and will — outlast the generations she writes about.
If you want to understand what it’s like to live your life on the internet right now, there are few writers better equipped to help you than Jia Tolentino ... a collection of essays on trying to survive the 21st century that are so incisive and elegantly constructed that as I read, I found myself wanting to underline particularly beautiful sentences again and again, until every page was black with ink ... Most of what defines this collection is a feeling of profound horror at a terrible realization: Tolentino is smart enough to see the problems with what’s happening in the world, the way those problems warp our minds and souls; she can diagnose them for us. But she doesn’t have any prescriptions or solutions. You can’t think your way out of capitalism ... What Trick Mirror has to offer doesn’t feel like a solution. But it does feel like a map. And maybe that’s enough for now.
Tolentino’s book is about what it’s like to live right now, and its commentary is so up to date, and so close to our current moment, that it feels like a cheat code. But Tolentino is reflecting quickly and efficiently. She deftly lays out an up-to-the-minute analysis of contemporary life without making the reader feel claustrophobic. She discusses the evolution of the internet, the shifting landscape of boutique fitness and the beauty industry, what it means to get married in our current gender-political era, and, in a tour de force chapter, she encapsulates how the horror of late capitalism has mutated into our current scam millennia ... The most resonant chapter, however, is 'The Cult of the Difficult Woman,' in which she outlines how the feminist principles that have flooded the mainstream have resulted in a blurred feminism with meaning so dispersed that it’s vulnerable to being co-opted by anyone, for anything ... Tolentino asks: is truly everything about being a woman politically meaningful?
...incisive ... Tolentino’s restless intellect often shepherds the reader to unpredictable places ... Tolentino is special. With Trick Mirror, she has solidified her status as one of our most evocative social commentators.
...this work is situated at a delicious intersection of cultural criticism and memoir, oscillating between humor-saturated personal diatribes and cunning excavations of cultural artifacts ... Relentlessly well-researched, the glossy and humorous quality of these essays contributes to their digestibility; their self-reflexivity perpetually swats away any overarching thesis ... to me Trick Mirror felt concerned with their investigation in a way that I appreciated both politically and emotionally. It felt invested in historicizing the present ... In holding up a mirror to our present circumstance, Tolentino doesn’t offer a clear line of action. As a reader I felt vaguely disappointed by that disavowal of a 'next step' ... but Trick Mirror offers an insightful and multi-valent perspective on the present in a way that, in my mind, expands what can now be said on each of the topics that has been outlined here. It is rigorous, it is personal, it is elegantly crafted to contain the sharp angles of critique and the soft spots of memoir, and it shimmers with insight.
...Trick Mirror is a gem. The thirty-year-old New Yorker staff writer has produced nine long-form essays that are, at once, erudite and visceral, sharp, witty, and very much her own. She proves to be equal parts cultural critic, memoirist, and political pundit. Her targets include, among others, the wedding industry, generational scams, difficult women, reality TV, and the business of 'optimization.' Tolentino is a cynic, with an explorer’s curiosity and zeal. She writes not because she has answers, but in search of them ... What distinguishes Tolentino’s writing is, in part, her skill at the balancing act that is the hybrid essay. Many of these pieces are data-driven accounts interwoven with personal narratives. Tolentino shines in these settings, often admitting her own complicity in the issues at hand ... Only time will tell if Tolentino will be the next Didion or Sontag. For now, readers can defer such speculation, and focus on the teeming intelligence of her book. At the least, she is an astute chronicler of our time.
Tolentino’s success lies in yoking together the contemporary and the classical. From social media to the gig economy, she writes about modern mores with studied hipness. She favours first-person narration over the scrupulous detachment of traditional New Yorker reporting. An alumna of the spiky, 'supposedly feminist' website Jezebel, her writing remains impressionistic and intimate. But unlike her gratuitously oversharing peers, Tolentino adheres to a rigorously classical method. The point is to immerse the reader in the contradictions of her own self and to 'suspend [her] desire for a conclusion' ... She is progressive, but sceptical about progress. She wonders 'how everything got so intimately terrible'. Her digital declinism seems conservative, as do her prescriptions. Society must demonstrate more 'culpability', which sounds a lot like 'responsibility', with undertones of 'shame'. Deploring the “monetisation of the self”, she reiterates a medieval consternation: the selling of the soul. Self-conscious about her 'carping', Tolentino places herself in a tradition that began with Socrates lamenting the rise of literacy. That’s a gripe we only remember because Plato wrote it down, and there’s a similar irony with Tolentino, whose critique of the internet owes its existence to the online platforms that made her a star. The internet, then, isn’t all bad.
...every single essay in Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion is a standout; in fact, 'The I in the Internet' and 'We Come From Old Virginia' should be taught in journalism schools ... as each essay finds Tolentino interrogating her beliefs about society, American womanhood and online feminism, it’s refreshing to see subjects so often reduced to 280-character sloganeering receive 30 pages of thoughtful analysis in her hands ... Tolentino sets the bar higher for every other essay writer. Social media may be part of the reason she is so well-known, but Trick Mirror is a strong case for less tweeting and more long-form writing—for everyone.
A theme that unites all of the essays is that of 'the self as an endlessly monetizable asset' online and off. One of the most interesting essays in the collection is 'Always Be Optimizing,' which suggests that, for today’s cis woman, being a 'well-performing avatar' is expected but not enough ... Tolentino reminds us that the opaque and seemingly endless data gathering techniques on the part of tech companies have worn down users’ sense of boundaries surrounding privacy ... 'The Story of a Generation in Seven Scams' is another insightful essay about both the perils of life under late capitalism as well as opportunities for those willing to exploit workers, students, and even patients ... An important through-line in the book—one well known to organizers—is that we cannot solve structural problems with individualistic solutions or resources that only affect small groups of socioeconomically privileged women.
The nine long-form essays don't have one single theme that binds them together, but often they present modern life as a con — a funhouse mirror that distorts and hides the truth ... The internet being terrible is a well trodden subject in non-fiction, but Tolentino is an expert on the topic, and she's at her best while dismantling online culture ... Finishing Trick Mirror has a disorientating feeling that stays with you, a low-level panic which is pinned down by the knowledge that attempts to change any of this are akin to rebuilding a house with the same old bricks.
... Tolentino is a classical essayist along the lines of Montaigne, threading her way on the page toward an understanding of what she thinks and feels about life, the world, and herself ... The strongest pieces in Trick Mirror have to do with the commodification of the self ... Tolentino’s insights are sterling ... She’s particularly fun to read when she’s bemused by the absurdity of all these performances, stopping just short of outright cynicism ... The less penetrating essays in Trick Mirror—a consideration of literary heroines and a critique of the wedding industry—are solid enough but cover well-trodden ground.
These critics aren’t hysterical because they have uncontrollable, misunderstood responses to social problems; they perform hysteria because they know their audience respects the existence of those problems, and the chance that they may be sincere makes them difficult to criticise ... At the sentence level, it’s not difficult to understand what hysterical critics are saying; rather, it’s so easy that their lack of precision doesn’t matter ... She primarily uses personal experience to substantiate – rather than ‘get to the bottom of’ – her ideas, though her tendency towards hyperbole has the effect of making them seem entirely subjective ... The other purpose of personal experience in these essays is to act as a kind of disclosure or waiver. It may be risky for a millennial author to declare herself delusional and claim that scamming is ‘the definitive millennial ethos’;it may also keep her from looking like a delusional scammer ... In order to solve the problem of her possible wrongness, she adopts an elevated version of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist programme, constantly contradicting herself and referring to her shortcomings, among which are attention seeking, a desire for control, and equivocation ... calibrated for success in a media culture in which acknowledgment equals absolution and absolution is seen as crucial to success. Because no negative realisation about herself seems to keep her from committing the same crime in the next essay, the effect is akin to getting in ahead of criticism, PR-style, in the hope of lessening its impact on the brand ... Tolentino makes everything about her ... Much of the frenetic confusion she feels is a consequence of her overconfident warping of texts and situations. More than once she characterises rational feelings of conflict about what she knows is an ‘endlessly complicated’ issue – the difficulty of living in Kyrgyzstan for a year, say, or her indecision about whether she wants to get married – as ‘going insane’, revealing not only her inability to assess inputs and apply proportion but also her gross misapprehension of the ‘collective morality’ she claims to subscribe to. She is careful to mention her relative ‘luck’ and privilege before she complains, but usually only so that she can justify aligning herself with the suffering of people with whom she has little in common, making her experience seem worse and theirs not that bad ... For readers hoping to optimise the process of understanding their own lives, Tolentino’s book will seem ‘productive’. But those are her terms. No one has to accept them.
Tolentino says the essays in [Trick Mirror] are 'more baggy' than the stuff she’s allowed to write in The New Yorker. Sometimes that bagginess gives her room to produce the best stuff she has yet written, but there are also some meandering pieces that struggle to fill out the extra space. Trick Mirror contains two dazzling jewels, each one worth the price of the book on its own. The first is Reality TV Me ... Tolentino is magnificent on the ways that these self-conscious and egotistical young people performed their personalities at the camera — an eerie intimation of the way we all behave in the age of Instagram ... To find this aching lyricism at the heart of a banal pop-culture artefact such as a reality TV show is characteristic of Tolentino ... I love Tolentino best when she’s lyrical and there’s more in that vein in the collection’s second jewel, Ecstasy, an essay that riffs on Tolentino’s teenage religious experiences in a Houston megachurch...and her later love affair with the drug Ecstasy. A gorgeous description of wading through a swimming pool, high on cough syrup, listening to distant hip-hop filled me with the urge to head to Boots and bulk-buy Calpol ... However, the collection isn’t always this strong — how could it be? ...Nertheless, when she is good, she is better than anyone. Her position as the pre-eminent genius of the millennial intellectuals is assured.
... essential summer reading for those seeking the opposite of escapism ... In this perilous American experiment, Tolentino...refuses to relinquish her tools of discernment, her belief that there is an essential reality that we can approach, at least asymptotically, through critical thinking ... More personal, and delicately nuanced, essays examine religion (Tolentino was raised in a Texas megachurch its teen parishioners called 'the Repentagon') and the culture of her alma mater, the University of Virginia ... [not] particularly optimistic, but...inspiring.
The nine essays in Trick Mirror capture the slow-burning, quiet dread that comes with living in a world where information is so plentiful – and the need to persistently better yourself has never been stronger – that it induces a paralysing helplessness in the emotionally exhausted subject. But some subjects have been more primed to negotiate this hellscape of willful self-delusion and self-abasement than others ... Tolentino’s writing is not only satisfying to read unto itself, but also wields a two-pronged symbolic importance: it shows heritage publications that they can be both ‘unserious’ and immensely insightful ... To read her is to want to protect her ... puts the reader through a wringer of the multiple contradictions, self-deceptions, and collective delusions that mark our current moment. In dissecting the doomed impotence our individual selves, it also quietly breaks open a new line of inquiry .
Those deep dives into internet culture provide the collection with many of its most profound moments ... it’s only through [Tolentino's] authorial control that Trick Mirror is all so endlessly captivating, themes gliding into one another rather than messily piling up. It’s a risky format that doesn’t always work – an essay in which she tracks her own life through the literary heroines she grew up with never truly coalesces – but is always nonetheless rewarding. Only some, as is the case with any collection of essays, are more rewarding than others ... At the end of each of her essays here, Tolentino struggles to discern any real answers. In some cases, she’s almost fatalistic, acknowledging the likelihood of social and economic collapse, or the pointlessness of speculating about things that are, whether we acknowledge them or not, here already. But there is something deeply comforting about the fact that for every ponderous and neurotic question we ask ourselves about the internet or capitalism or how to live and breathe in 2019, somewhere out there is Tolentino, if far more eloquent and thoughtful than we could ever be, asking them too.
...Tolentino doesn’t altogether pour out confessionals strictly damning the Internet, nor does she pinpoint where the future of our screen worlds are going. Instead, she thoughtfully—and humorously—offers critical inquiry into why digital spaces have the power to inflict our physical senses offline, without portraying the Internet as this nightmarish entity living under our beds. By concocting a compelling hybrid of the person essay and journalistic reportage, Tolentino gives readers what is, perhaps, the most powerful outcome that reading about the Internet—not just content spawned from it—can extend to us: assessing our own indulgence to be seduced by self-delusion ... Every essay in Trick Mirror appears to indicate that, whether Tolentino recounts her dizzying teen realty TV stardom, remembers growing up in Texas amidst a church-going culture she felt displaced from, and more, there remains an intense presence of fragility, nostalgia, and anxiety that permeates the pages. The lucid quality to Tolentino’s writing is consistently endearing throughout because of understanding the construction of her identity taking shape during the Internet’s own infancy ... Ultimately, Trick Mirror is a coming of age novel for the Internet itself. The cultural significances that Tolentino highlights in her essays are not out of bias or of rank, but seek to enlighten and, strangely, kind of tease the Internet where to go from here ... Whatever the Internet may bring, I hope it continues to shine a light on Tolentino’s promising career.
One of the most striking qualities of Tolentino’s essays is her intense self-awareness. She’s able to sharply cut through entire structural systems, expose their self-deluded shortcomings, and then point to her own complicity within them ... These moments are refreshing; Tolentino isn’t afraid to self-criticize, which stands in stark contrast to the online virtue-signaling she writes about in her essay on the internet. Tolentino doesn’t just use her self-awareness to critique herself, however. She uses it to examine and unpack her behavior and her beliefs, giving the reader the impression that Tolentino understands herself to an intense degree ... Tolentino is at her best when she’s dealing with the messy, when it feels like her ideas are developing on the page, when her convictions haven’t yet been solidified—and maybe never will be ... I’m grateful for Tolentino’s writing, her honesty, and her comfort with complication. Her message is simple, but infinitely important: not everything can be explained cleanly, and that’s okay.
Though the book is studious and astute, it's not by any means an academic text bound by inflexible jargon or stuffy prose. It's also a breeze to read, and Tolentino's luminous and slyly funny personal voice makes arguments that are based just as much in morality and decency as they are in facts and logic ... the book, which could easily have been a collection of previously published works or a natural career move for the promising young writer, turns out to be the ideal extension of Tolentino's talents and resources. The works are palatable but demanding in scope; always self-aware and never pretentious ... Not all essays in Trick Mirror are equally sharp. Some of them feel slightly out of place in the larger work ... Tolentino's voice is best when she hones in on Internet culture, and the strongest work in Trick Mirror already has the sheen of classic nonfiction. She is a millennial through and through — part of a special generation that grew up synonymously with the explosion of the Internet and the invention of social media and reality TV. Trick Mirror isn't the first book -- and won't be the last -- about this generational shift, but its scope, intelligence, and infectious personal voice ensures that it ought to be seen as one of the best.
Tolentino's] work is marked by forensic attention, generous insight, a tone that is both conversational and lavishly descriptive, and an absurd, sparkling sense of humour crystallised by the internet’s heavy layers of irony and meta-jokes ... Here, her challenge is more daunting: from the outset, this is a book that promises contemporary American politics and culture as its subject. These essays, spanning memoir and criticism, are distinct from her journalism as a result. Though still crammed with startlingly precise sentences, they are longer and more discursive, tangential and unexpected ... Tolentino is deeply and rightly pessimistic about our current era: 'this feverish, electric, unlivable hell.' ... Trick Mirror has a deep understanding of the sick pleasure of pressing a spectacular, marbled bruise, and the compulsion to do it again and again ... The book is saved from being bleak by two things. One is, of course, Tolentino’s sense of humour. No opportunity for a good joke goes unused ... The other is a sense of wonder at the beauty and the gentleness of life that occasionally intrudes on the narrative like a dazzling but uninvited guest ... Though only ever glanced at, with admirable restraint, these moments add depth and a personal stake to the terrifyingly astute analyses of a distinctive, lasting voice.
[The essays] twist and turn around multiple narratives at once, rarely reaching a traditional conclusion. The work coalesces around a few recurring themes: the monetization of the self, women’s roles in a world that increasingly demands more and rewards less, and the futility of trying to ethically and morally navigate a culture that seems to only reward corruption ... Tolentino arrives at an idea that, for me, permeates most of the essays in Trick Mirror: the centering and subsequent monetization of the self ... It’s not easy to criticize the mechanisms of your success, but Tolentino turns each topic around like a Rubik’s Cube, looking at it from every side, rearranging possibilities but never quite solving the puzzle ... The feeling of despair at seeing something good twisted inward—being used only to enforce the existing system—is deepest in 'Ecstasy,' the best and most ambitious essay in the book. The writing is beautiful, and the braiding of topics as disparate as megachurches, chopped-and-screwed rap music, and of course ecstasy (of both the spiritual and drug variety) is so well done it feels ecstatic in itself ... 'Ecstasy' also showcases one of the things I love most about Tolentino’s writing: her pop sensibility. It’s not often a writer can write eloquently about the ecstatic feeling she gets from drugs and chopped and screwed and marry that with the intellectual and spiritual rigor of Anne Carson, but Tolentino pulls it off as if the internet were as natural to her as the library ... The illusion of a juice press as a marker of clout, of religion as a benevolent and benign source of ecstasy, of efficiency as an always laudable goal—all of these subjects feel explored fully, turned inside out.
Tolentino has revealed the trick mirror for what it is. Not only does this love story lack a happily-ever-after, but it turns out that it’s not even a love story after all ... Tolentino writes with an enviable authority, one that comes with having lived and breathed the very subjects about which she writes (she’s been an internet user for most of her life) and an authority built upon a long-held awareness of her writerly self ...'The Story of a Generation in Seven Scams' is the essay I would present to a family of extraterrestrials if they invaded and requested one seminal document explaining life in today’s capitalist America ... Throughout the book, the symbolic trick mirror and the theme of refraction appear beautifully and thoughtfully in Tolentino’s clear—and often skeptical—voice. She presents the traps of the world as she sees them and rarely attempts to provide solutions because there aren’t any.
In her first collection of essays Tolentino emerges as a prescient observer and participant of the world wide web and how it shapes the way we consume, live and relate ... Peppered with memoir, self-reflection, and numerous diversions into literature and popular culture, at times you might wonder where Tolentino is taking you. But there’s a very good reason Tolentino’s by-line is one of the more consistently readable and incisive to have emerged from the churn of the 2010s blogosphere: she knows the value of a good hard look in the mirror. At times Trick Mirror might inspire you to delete your social media apps for good, but as Tolentino writes, even those who avoid them must 'still live in the world that this internet has created'.
Tolentino’s breakout collection emphasizes her cleverness as both a contemporary writer and thinker. Her ability to see and explain with clarity the side effects of the internet age and 'optimizing feminism' is strong, and her quick wit and sharp eye allow her to mold for readers a full circle in her essays—clear arguments and engaging anecdotes that are thought-provoking and easy to follow. She lends to her work at the New Yorker an invaluable sense of millennial culture, whether she’s writing about capitalism or Juuling, and Trick Mirror is no exception.
In these nine stunning pieces, New Yorker staff writer Tolentino seamlessly melds together journalistic social criticism and revealing personal essays. To varying degrees of intimate context, she places herself within each narrative, reporting on broad social currents while revealing very specific encounters ... Tolentino offers a millennial perspective that is deeply grounded, intellectually transcending her relative youth. She brings fresh perspective to current movements in a manner similar to that of Joan Didion in the 1960s and ’70s. Exhilarating, groundbreaking essays that should establish Tolentino as a key voice of her generation.
New Yorker contributor Tolentino debuts with a sharp, well-founded crackdown on the lies of self and culture in these nine original, incisive reflections on a hypercapitalist, internet-driven age that 'positions personal identity as the center of the universe' ... The collection’s chief strength is Tolentino’s voice: sly, dry, and admittedly complicit in an era where 'the choice...is to be destroyed or to morally compromise ourselves in order to be functional.' While the insights aren’t revelatory, the book’s candid self-awareness and well-formulated prose, and Tolentino’s ability to voice the bitterest truths...will gain Tolentino new fans and cement her reputation as an observer well worth listening to.