I haven’t seen this film. Didn’t know about this film. Only had the title (misremembered: F Is For Fake) way back in my brain.
F for Fake (French: Vérités et mensonges, "Truths and lies") is a 1973 docudrama film co-written, directed by, and starring Orson Welles who worked on the film alongside François Reichenbach, Oja Kodar, and Gary Graver. Initially released in 1974, it focuses on Elmyr de Hory's recounting of his career as a professional art forger; de Hory's story serves as the backdrop for a meandering investigation of the natures of authorship and authenticity, as well as the basis of the value of art. Far from serving as a traditional documentary on de Hory, the film also incorporates Welles's companion Oja Kodar, notorious "hoax-biographer" Clifford Irving, and Orson Welles as himself. F for Fake is sometimes considered an example of a film essay.
It sure seems in line with what I’ve been looking at. Guess I’ll have to check it out. But, that’s not what this is about . . .
On the eve of Donald Trump's inauguration, a young woman snoops through her boyfriend's phone and makes a startling discovery: he's an anonymous internet conspiracy theorist, and a popular one at that. Already fluent in internet fakery, irony, and outrage, she's not exactly shocked by the revelation. Actually, she's relieved--he was always a little distant--and she plots to end their floundering relationship while on a trip to the Women's March in DC. But this is only the first in a series of bizarre twists that expose a world whose truths are shaped by online lies.
Suddenly left with no reason to stay in New York and increasingly alienated from her friends and colleagues, our unnamed narrator flees to Berlin, embarking on her own cycles of manipulation in the deceptive spaces of her daily life, from dating apps to expat meetups, open-plan offices to bureaucratic waiting rooms. She begins to think she can't trust anyone--shouldn't the feeling be mutual?
Narrated with seductive confidence and subversive wit, Fake Accounts challenges the way current conversations about the self and community, delusions and gaslighting, and fiction and reality play out in the internet age.
Groundhog Day?! I just noticed that the book was released on Groundhog Day. Hmmm. Is the Groundhog self obsessed? Only concerned with its own shadow? Maybe. Intentional? Also maybe. (And that’s the point). Maybe.
I’ve been mildly looking forward to this release. I didn’t know Lauren Oyler, but she starting popping about a month ago for me. I read a few things here and there, and put together that she was a thing with her debut novel on the near horizon.
Based upon the ad copy, I was definitely curious. With the elements of conspiracy, Berlin, and the internet, I thought it would somehow resonate with Kunzru’s Red Pill which I really enjoyed. So what was it that I enjoyed? Engaging with the recent past to understand the present? Yeah, and getting into the mind of those that became taken with the alt-right philosophy which was both fascism and white supremacy. Yeah. I wanted more of that, and thought that maybe I could find it in Fake Accounts.
I’ve been wrestling with it now for the past week. I’ve figuratively thrown it across the room on multiple occasions, and have sworn that I’m putting it down. It irritates me. I don’t know if I’m smart enough to “get it”, or, if I am, that there is no there there. Is she, the protagonist of Fake Accounts, us on the Internet? She is the only thing that exists, and doesn’t seem willing to be vulnerable?
Naturally, this work would be an instance where the author is conflated with the character. (I think the style is called autoficition: “In literary criticism, Autofiction is a form of fictionalized autobiography.”) Thus, the inclination is to what, not like the author? What is she saying about our moment? It’s not real? Maybe. It’s empty? Maybe.
Oyler invokes Mrs. Dalloway toward the end of the novel (which I sill haven’t finished. [Fake Accounts not Mrs. Dalloway] 85% done. I won’t “publish” this post until I do to see if anything changes) When I read Mrs. Dalloway the first time, I didn’t know why I should care about this account of a day mainly through the eyes of an upper-middle class lady, but I discovered a whole world in there. There was life and suffering and empathy. Actually, here is wonderful essay about that book:
Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” is a revolutionary novel of profound scope and depth, about a day in the life of a woman who runs a few errands, sees an old suitor and gives a dull party. It’s a masterpiece created out of the humblest narrative materials.
Anyway, Oyler brings us into her world, but the other people in the novel are considered only in how they see her. (?) I’m not certain that is true. There is something so superficial about this life though. There is no passion. The setting, and events are stage dressing and a means to enter into her mind. Where we stay.
Each time I’m ready to give up on this book, I read an essay of criticism about it. There is plenty. Oyler herself is a critic and that apparently is one of the ciphers to understanding this book. [Which I don’t]
Perhaps now I will begin to catalog some of the criticism. . . . (excerpted)
—when I was feeling grumpy about this book, I listened to this and felt much better.
Lauren Oyler’s ‘Fake Accounts’ Captures the Relentlessness of Online Life
By Parul Sehgal
Jan. 26, 2021
That’s the plot, and it couldn’t matter less. It exists, one suspects, just to get the character to Berlin, and that for no palpable reason. We experience the book locked into the consciousness of the narrator, and that consciousness largely resides on — and has been shaped in response to — Twitter.
In one scene we see the narrator filling out a dating profile. How to describe herself? 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.
(end of spoiler :)
Something that’s criticized by Oyler both in interviews and in the text is the “aphoristic style” which may be referring to twitter, or may be referring to Jenny Offill. (Offill is Gen X, Oyler is a Millennial) I might be wrong though. Maybe she isn’t referring to her.
‘Fake Accounts’ Examines the Alluring Trap of Our Online Personas
By Katie Kitamura
Feb. 1, 2021
Most readers will recognize the exhilarations and degradations of online activity that Oyler describes. These daily sins range from mere procrastination and online stalking to full-fledged impersonation and political derangement. Various platforms — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tinder and its ilk — are present not as texture, but as major motors of character and plot.
But “Fake Accounts” is also the work of a critic who has made a career of studying a much older piece of technology: the book, and in particular, the novel. Her debut is packed with references to contemporary writers, from Ben Lerner to Jenny Offill. My experience of “Fake Accounts” was not a little surreal, because a novel I wrote is the subject of one of these references (a neutral one).
The above review is Oyler’s pinned tweet:
Thank you, thank you @katiekitamura for reading FAKE ACCOUNTS the way I hoped it would be read. "Oyler is such a funny writer that it can be easy to overlook the fact that the underlying tone of her book is extreme disquiet." A truly great review
Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler review – internet secrets and lies
An American millennial discovers her boyfriend is a conspiracy theorist in this brilliant debut about online and IRL experience
Thu 4 Feb 2021 02.30 EST
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. Arriving in the same month as Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This, it might just help to usher in the Age of Actually Good Novels About the Internet – and not a moment too soon.
Fake Accounts is Oyler’s first novel; hitherto she has been known as the sort of combative literary critic whom writers hate and readers love.
Two Paths for the Extremely Online Novel
Lauren Oyler's Fake Accounts and Patricia Lockwood's No One Is Talking About This ask the same questions about the internet. Their answers sound nothing alike.
02.01.2021 07:00 AM
Oyler knows about Twitter. She had her first big social media hit when she reviewed Roxane Gay’s best-selling essay collection Bad Feminist for the blog BookSlut in 2014. The review dripped with piss and vinegar; it starts out, “I have always hated Roxane Gay’s writing,” and it doesn’t let up from there. Oyler is a consistently entertaining critic. Even when you don’t agree with or understand her arguments, they’re amusing. Which is to say, she isn’t boring.
Fake Accounts is narrated by a blogger, unnamed but designed to loosely resemble Oyler (they share the same Twitter avatar and some basic biographical details),
Fake Accounts is an effective portrait of someone who is too caught up in the performance of self to actually know herself, let alone anyone else. But it’s a one-dimensional portrait. No texture. By focusing so closely on the unrelenting inwardness of a shallow thinker, the book succumbs to a stultifying myopia; the narrator moves to Berlin but skims over the surface of expatriate life with total disregard for German culture, like Emily from Emily in Paris’ bad-tempered cousin with a personality disorder.
Fake Accounts reckons with what fiction can achieve in the age of Twitter, but this reckoning, rather than enlivening the story itself, stifles it. The characters filter their identities through screens, and this filtration allows for no depth, no emotional resonance. How strange, since Oyler’s criticism is clearly animated by strong feeling and a palpable sense of mischief. There’s nothing palpable here. What is the internet doing to people, to books? The ultimate answer Fake Accounts suggests is: making them sour, and small.
—Oh great! A second book!
Can a Novel Really Capture the Spirit of the Internet?
Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts and the limits of literary fiction’s obsession with life online.
FEBRUARY 4, 2021
In a recent essay for Bookforum, Oyler outlined what she sees as one shortcoming in contemporary fiction: a fixation on the morality of fictional characters, a readerly imposition that results in a literary landscape where “most books are judged on everything except aesthetic terms.” Apparently, contemporary fiction’s desire to teach us how to behave—you could call it “virtue signaling”—is bringing it down.
What the author thinks the novel should be doing instead, however, is less clear. With formidable defenses of irony and sarcasm, the novel’s pugilistic voice is determined to never be caught off guard.
Consider the opening, which teases the idea that the book might have something to say about the global crises that loom over our personal lives: [Narrator: It doesn’t.]1
Consensus was the world was ending, or would begin to end soon, if not by exponential environmental catastrophe then by some combination of nuclear war, the American two-party system, patriarchy, white supremacy, gentrification, globalization, data breaches, and social media. People looked sad, on the subway, in the bars; decisions were questioned, opinions rearranged. The same grave epiphany was dragged around everywhere: we were transitioning from an only retrospectively easy past to an inarguably more difficult future; we were, it could no longer be denied, unstoppably bad.
The novel’s initial premise is compelling . . .
. . . The majority of the novel’s remainder will be spent on permanent vacation in Berlin, clearing bureaucratic hurdles, feverishly browsing the Internet, and halfheartedly trying to meet someone new. . . If you presume to care, you will quickly be disabused of that notion.
One could situate this aggressive fakery in another literary tradition of deflection, one that stretches back to Melville’s The Confidence-Man and Gaddis’s The Recognitions, but Fake Accounts doesn’t really feel at home in that company. Those earlier novels turned away completely from what they judged to be a debased society, offering a Bartlebian refusal, come what may.
What’s left to sustain a work of fiction if a novelist doesn’t want to appear to care about anything? The Internet, apparently.
Lauren Oyler Doesn’t Think You’re Dumb
LAST UPDATED FEBRUARY 2, 2021, 11:27 AM
Well I finished. And It clearly consumed me. So success? Maybe.
Both these films came out on the same day (Feb. 5 2021)2 . . .
I’m the narrator in this instance ;)