In this debut novel, a young woman discovers that her boyfriend Felix has an alter-ego online as a conspiracy theorist who stokes alt-right anger. When Felix dies, she moves to Germany—where she begins her own life of deception.
It’s a brilliant comic novel about the ways in which the internet muddles all of our interior rivers while at the same time polluting the seas of the outer world, and about how these processes might be one and the same thing ... the descriptive prose is casually great ... a fascinating work of cultural analysis. Every sentence tells ... a prismatically intelligent work of art.
All of this makes for a very clever and entertaining comedy of manners; Fake Accounts proves that Oyler can apply her astute observational skills to fiction just as well as her criticism, and her treatment of social media is where they’re at their sharpest. The book is as close an approximation can get of what it’s like to be desperately reaching for meaning when the lines between work and life are so shot through with social media as to be rendered ineffective; when earnestness is passé, except when used sparingly by hip personalities on Twitter before returning to regularly scheduled nihilistic content ... A related intrigue that Fake Accounts deftly executes, so smoothly as to almost be incidental even though of course it isn’t, is capturing interpersonal dynamics as perceived by young women who have had to broker some sort of peace with themselves regarding the fact that there is almost nothing that doesn’t feel like a performance, especially when dealing with men ... the cleverest ending to a book I’ve read in a long time, and I’ll be thinking of it while reading everyone else’s reviews of this book when they come out and the discourse that might follow — knowing that might be entirely by design ... By ducking and weaving around earnestness, by painting so lurid a portrait of how performative irony online can calcify emotional muscles and corrode the ability to relate to others in a way that isn’t mediated by technology at all, Oyler has created a narrator who is both wholly unreliable, pretty unlikeable, and something of a stand-in for her own public persona. I cannot tell whether I would have liked the style of Fake Accounts as much had it not come from someone whose writing and opinions I mostly already trust, or if I would have thought it overly defensive in her need to set it apart from the other contemporary voices of a generation, when they’re usually all talking over each other anyway. But figuring that out seems to be, as Oyler might have put it, entirely beside the point.
Whether or not the conjuring of such inwardness is reading’s greatest pleasure for you, at the very least we might agree that inwardness is a necessary precondition for creating anything worth reading. Or so I have believed. Here I sit, having just completed a novel that lines up these pieties and threatens to dispatch them with calm and ruthless efficiency ... it is most thoroughly and exuberantly about the hunched, clammy, lightly paranoid, entirely demented feeling of being 'very online' — the relentlessness of performance required, the abdication of all inwardness, subtlety and good sense ... The novel has Points it would like to make — about self-mythologizing on the internet and in life, the overlap of the virtual and the actual; they are obvious and easily mapped. The riffs are its strongest aspects ... You can get away with this sort of thing in a review, if you want to — creating dramas in which you, the critic, get to burst in waving a little sword, setting the world right. But can this safe, self-certain, self-congratulatory voice sustain a novel? Fake Accounts is, essentially, many of these interactions strung together. Oyler’s characters are unapologetic foils, useful idiots babbling on about 'wellness' and turmeric who allow our brilliant, irascible narrator to rant eloquently at familiar targets, like patronizing self-professed 'male feminists,' bourgeois white women who insist they are oppressed ... The book isn’t written in little bursts or fragments (a form the narrator deplores, and parodies to good effect), but the tone is identical, that callow, quippy cleverness, the disdain... 'Yes, but,' I say, for all its forceful and stylish prose, for Oyler’s signature denunciation of moral equivocation and imprecision in thought and language. 'Yes, but' because I felt sharpened by it, grateful for its provocations ... She settles on 'difficult but worth it.' I might describe this novel similarly — not difficult but maddening at times, too cautious, regrettably intent on replicating the very voice it critiques. But worth it, yes, especially if you’re up for a fight, to liven up whatever inwardness remains to you.