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Lauren Oyler: Internet Speak, 7 May 2020

... Every day​ I write to friends, acquaintances, colleagues and strangers using most or all the following media: Gmail, Google Hangouts, Twitter, Instagram, iMessage and WhatsApp. A message sent through Facebook still occasionally pops up; I could also communicate via Spotify, the music streaming service; Venmo, a money-sending app; Yelp, where I looked for restaurant recommendations pre lockdown; and two astrology apps that I keep on my phone but rarely consult ...

Would I have heard of you?

Lauren Oyler: ‘The Female Persuasion’, 21 June 2018

The Female Persuasion 
by Meg Wolitzer.
Chatto, 464 pp., £14.99, June 2018, 978 1 78474 236 2
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... In​ chronological order, starting with her debut, Sleepwalking, which she wrote as a student at Brown and published in 1982 when she was 23, the page counts of Meg Wolitzer’s novels are: 272, 294, 352, 213, 224, 219, 307, 383, 304, 560, 464. A couple of young adult novels, published in 2011 and 2014, hit 304 and 272 respectively. Does this matter? To Wolitzer, yes ...

The New Grunge

Lauren Oyler, 23 May 2019

Godsend 
by John Wray.
Canongate, 228 pp., £14.99, January 2019, 978 1 78211 962 3
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... In the late​ 1990s a white teenager called John Walker Lindh converted to Islam and began worshipping at the Islamic Centre of Mill Valley in Marin County, California. Brought up as a Catholic, he studied many world religions but was attracted to Islam after seeing Spike Lee’s Malcolm X. He soon found himself out of place in his American suburb – according to a family friend, he wore ‘the long robes and pillbox hat’ and grew a beard – so instead of university he went to Yemen to learn Arabic and then to a madrasa in Pakistan, where he intended to memorise the Quran ...

Pressure to Please

Lauren Oyler: Is Sex Interesting?, 7 February 2019

You Know You Want This 
by Kristen Roupenian.
Cape, 226 pp., £12.99, February 2019, 978 1 78733 110 5
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... Is sex interesting?​ Is that a stupid question? It’s certainly reliably attention-grabbing when it comes up in your first sentence. While good sex, like good fortune, is generally best kept to oneself (it inspires rhapsodising and provokes resentment), bad sex has both comedic and tragic potential, as does good sex described badly – the Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award proves it ...

Murderous Thoughts

Lauren Oyler: ‘Women Talking’, 22 November 2018

Women Talking 
by Miriam Toews.
Faber, 216 pp., £12.99, August 2018, 978 0 571 34032 3
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... Why would​ they need counselling if they weren’t even awake when it happened?’ asked Bishop Johan Neurdorf, the leader of the Manitoba Colony, a remote Mennonite community in Bolivia. He was referring to the 130 women and girls in the colony who had been sedated with bovine anaesthetic and raped in their beds by a group of eight men. The women would wake up disoriented, bruised, bleeding, with their clothes torn and dirt and semen on the sheets ...

Excessive Weeping

Lauren Oyler: Nicole Flattery’s Stories, 10 October 2019

Show Them a Good Time 
by Nicole Flattery.
Bloomsbury, 238 pp., £14.99, March 2019, 978 1 5266 1190 1
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... In​ ‘Abortion, a Love Story’, the long story at the centre of Nicole Flattery’s first collection, a young woman, Natasha, tells the professor on whom she’s about to force a perfunctory affair that she has a disorder. ‘I can’t explain exactly what my disorder is,’ she says, ‘but it prevents me from absorbing any knowledge into my brain ...

Why are some people punks?

Lauren Oyler: ‘Detransition, Baby’, 20 May 2021

Detransition, Baby 
by Torrey Peters.
Serpent’s Tail, 340 pp., £14.99, January, 978 1 78816 720 8
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... The title​ is distinctly weird, resolutely of our time, but not something anyone would actually say. Detransition, Baby: disparate registers ironically combined, in a standard format, to make a little pun. The word ‘detransition’ is specific; it’s not a word whose general definition gets an extra tweak of meaning in context, like ‘pass ...

Ha ha! Ha ha!

Lauren Oyler: Jia Tolentino, 23 January 2020

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion 
by Jia Tolentino.
Fourth Estate, 303 pp., £14.99, August 2019, 978 0 00 829492 2
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... Feminism​  is suddenly conventional wisdom in many spheres,’ Jia Tolentino writes in ‘The Cult of the Difficult Woman’, an essay in her debut collection, Trick Mirror. Ignoring the inaccurate ‘suddenly’, the sentiment is correct. It suggests, contra hashtag, that not all women, in all scenarios, need to be extra vigilant for misogynist implications, connotations, deception and predation – that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar ...

I hate my job

Niela Orr: Lauren Oyler meets herself, 15 July 2021

Fake Accounts 
by Lauren Oyler.
Fourth Estate, 272 pp., £12.99, February, 978 0 00 836652 0
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... The​ protagonist of Fake Accounts, Lauren Oyler’s first novel, is a thirty-something writer with a job in digital media. She spends ‘all day on the internet, and especially on Twitter, ostensibly looking for stories but mainly just looking’. It’s January 2017, just after Donald Trump’s election, and something’s up ...

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