After writing a satirical novel that The New York Times calls classist, Anna is shunned by the literary establishment and, in her hurt, radicalized by the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Determined to follow Rand's theory of rational selfishness, Anna alienates herself from the scene and eventually her friends and family. Finally, in true Randian style, she abandons everyone for the boundless horizons of Los Angeles, hoping to make a TV show about her beloved muse. Things look better in Hollywood—until the money starts running out, and with it Anna's faith in the virtue of selfishness. When a death in the family sends her running back to New York and then spiraling at her mother's house, Anna is offered a different kind of opportunity. A chance to kill the ego causing her pain at a mysterious commune on the island of Lesbos. The second half of Anna's odyssey finds her exploring a very different kind of freedom - communal love, communal toilets - and a new perspective on Ayn Rand that could bring Anna back home to herself.
Putting Rand in the title of one’s satirical novel feels like a dare, or at least — in a hyper-polarized time — a provocation. The good news is Freiman has written one of the funniest and unruliest novels in ages. It shakes you by the shoulders until you laugh, vomit or both ... Freiman scratches at the difference between knowing and knowingness, and how our blind spots can subsume our personality ... Rife with dissatisfactions — to its credit — and with self-aware jokes and serious questions about self-awareness. Also: serious questions about jokes ... Ultimately, though, the author torques her contrarianism past trolling, past knee-jerk philosophizing and past satire, alchemizing a critique of literary culture in all its ideological waywardness.
Angular, careening ... Freiman’s singularly funny 2018 debut, Inappropriation, dealt in similar ideas: our humorless century, the allure of cult logic, the quest for a credo. Fans of that book will miss its strange, particular tenderness — here instead is a furious, jagged and radiant reckoning with the dangers of the manifesto, the mortifications of aging, the mercies and limitations of the comic posture, the job of the novelist and the indiscriminate desecration it demands.
Freiman has the qualities of a great comic writer: She’s deeply skeptical, sparing no one, including herself; she doesn’t ruminate at the expense of good timing; and most of all, she understands that the spirit of comedy, like the spirit of art, is risk, that a joke is a leap and that an uncertain landing is what makes it pleasurable, rousing, even deep ... Unlike Rand, Freiman’s novel, especially its second half, is interested in psychology; in the sometimes fun, sometimes frightening negotiation of power that can play out in subtle ways between strangers; and in the ways an individual is shaped by her context. In the end, her jokes land — because she takes these risks.