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Review of "No Judgement" by Lauren Oyler: Fashionable insights from an exclusive society.

Review of “No Judgement” by Lauren Oyler: Fashionable insights from an exclusive society.


Auren Oyler is a tall and intelligent American author. In 2021, she released her debut novel, Fake Accounts, which tells the story of a young woman who is heavily involved in online culture. However, she is most recognized in the United States as a critic whose articles have been featured in the New Yorker. Her lengthy essay, totaling 5,000 words, for the London Review of Books critiquing Trick Mirror, a collection of essays by fellow thirtysomething American writer Jia Tolentino, reportedly gained widespread attention (I cannot confirm this as I am not very active online).

In my reviews, I typically include these types of details. If I didn’t, an editor would likely reach out to me. However, in this particular case, I am sharing them early on to give you a glimpse into the unique and specialized niche that we are about to explore briefly. It is a confined and insular environment. While Jane Austen focused on her limited perspective, Oyler’s realm is both expansive (the internet) and exceedingly specific (her corner of the internet). Those who spend significant time online may be familiar with her somewhat defensive, occasionally anxious, and frequently self-congratulatory writing style – a tongue-in-cheek and immature tone influenced by her reliance on what was once known as Twitter. However, for those of us who are not as immersed in this world, reading Oyler’s work may leave us feeling drained and only partially understanding the subject – or rather, the person – she is discussing.

I didn’t particularly enjoy her latest book, a collection of essays titled “No Judgement.” However, I didn’t hate it either. If I were the type to keep a journal, I might have jotted down some questionable sayings from it (“the protagonist in fiction is always more truthful than it seems, while non-fiction is less so”). It prompted me to order a book that Oyler mentioned enjoying (Norman Rush’s “Mating”), and I found humor in the line: “In the US, we only have three stages of grief.” (This was inspired by a woman who responded to being betrayed by a friend by first feeling betrayed, then embarrassed, and finally taking legal action.) But I also can’t say that I liked it. While I understand its trendiness – its themes couldn’t be more reminiscent of a small, niche literary magazine in 2024 – it also feels distant and lacking. It leaves you feeling hollow in a negative way (I’m referring to emptiness, not a cathartic release). You can’t help but wonder, where are the natural elements? Where is the real world? It’s almost surprising to look up from the book and see a window instead of a screen.

There are six complete essays, with topics ranging from vulnerability and self-optimization, to Oyler’s personal experiences with anxiety and the value of gossip. The author also delves into the growing trend of using star ratings to evaluate books and their authors, as well as her own life in Berlin. The longest essay, titled “I Am the One Who Is Sitting Here, for Hours and Hours and Hours,” focuses on the concept of autofiction, which the author has explored in her own writing and finds intriguing. The essay includes assertive subheadings, such as “What It Is” and “What It Isn’t,” and references to works by Roland Barthes.

In a previous post on Twitter, author Joyce Carol Oates expressed her disappointment with the increasing popularity of “wan little husks of autofiction,” which she described as having extra space between paragraphs to artificially lengthen the book. While author Jia Tolentino references this in her essay, she does not directly criticize it. In her own novel, she pokes fun at the “white spaces” often used by writers like Jenny Offill. However, she also dedicates a significant portion of her writing to discussing autofiction, which requires her to closely examine and analyze other authors’ works.

I am not convinced that this is a nourishing experience for either the squirrel or the reader. At least, not for me as a reader. It evokes a sense of emptiness, as if Middlemarch and all of literature are fading into the distance like a bright moon. It is disheartening to witness the draining away of literature – novels, criticism, everything – before our very eyes, and it leaves me feeling quite melancholy.

Source: theguardian.com