A Times book of the year
A Guardian book of the year
‘Dazzling’ New Statesman
‘It filled me with hope’ Zadie Smith
We are living in the era of the self, in an era of malleable truth and widespread personal and political delusion. In these nine interlinked essays, Jia Tolentino, the New Yorker’s brightest young talent, explores her own coming of age in this warped and confusing landscape.
From the rise of the internet to her own appearance on an early reality TV show; from her experiences of ecstasy – both religious and chemical – to her uneasy engagement with our culture’s endless drive towards ‘self-optimisation’; from the phenomenon of the successful American scammer to her generation’s obsession with extravagant weddings, Jia Tolentino writes with style, humour and a fierce clarity about these strangest of times.
Following in the footsteps of American luminaries such as Susan Sontag, Joan Didion and Rebecca Solnit, yet with a voice and vision all her own, Jia Tolentino writes with a rare gift for elucidating nuance and complexity, coupled with a disarming warmth. This debut collection of her essays announces her exactly the sort of voice we need to hear from right now – and for many years to come.
‘A masterclass in how to think about the world’ Samantha Irby
‘Thoroughly enjoyable’ Vogue
‘There is one guarantee with this book: it will make you stop and think … Tolentino’s writing will leave you feeling a bit more humble, and a bit more intelligent’ Independent
‘Hardcore modern intellectualism with a side of memes’ Daily Telegraph
‘A page-turning holiday read’ Elle
‘An astute and exciting new voice’ Financial Times (Books of the Year)
‘A bold and playful collection from a hugely talented writer’ Guardian
‘The best young essayist at work in the United States’ Rebecca Solnit
‘The millennial Susan Sontag, a brilliant voice in cultural criticism. . . She remains engaged with her subjects even as she scratches her head and wonders why we do what we do. Even better: She writes like a dream’ Washington Post
‘Jia Tolentino could be the Joan Didion of our time’ Vulture
‘She is the kind of writer who is talked about with a mixture of rapturous admiration and pained envy … dazzling’ New Statesman
‘The Book of the Moment’ Vice
‘Magnificent … her position as the pre-eminent genius among the millennial intellectuals is self-assured’ The Times
‘This is electrifying, vital writing’ Louise O’Neill
About the author
Jia Tolentino is a staff writer at The New Yorker. She grew up in Texas, attended the University of Virginia, and served in Kyrgyzstan in the Peace Corps. She received her MFA in fiction from the University of Michigan. She was a contributing editor at The Hairpin and the deputy editor at Jezebel. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Time, Grantland, Slate, Pitchfork, Bon Appétit, Spin, and Fader. She lives in Brooklyn.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The subtitle “Reflections on Self-Delusion” accurately describes the sardonic feel of The New Yorker staff writer Jia Tolentino’s thought-provoking and enthralling essay collection. Tolentino is fascinated by the hot-button topics of the late 2010s: sexual harassment, feminism, social media, evangelical religion, white supremacy. Her take on these subjects is always intensely personal, from the hilarious story of her brief stint on an early reality TV show to a detailed accounting of how much money the wedding industry has cost her over the last decade. Like a millennial Joan Didion, Tolentino captures the seriocomic malaise of her generation with wit and empathy.
New Yorker contributor Tolentino debuts with a sharp, well-founded crackdown on the lies of self and culture in these nine original, incisive reflections on a hypercapitalist, internet-driven age that "positions personal identity as the center of the universe." While some essays peel back personal self-delusions such as by recalling, in "Always Be Optimizing," how taking barre classes for fitness gave her the "satisfying but gross sense of having successfully conformed to a prototype" others comment on broader cultural movements with frightening accuracy, for instance noting in "Pure Heroines" that "bravery and bitterness get so concentrated in literature, for women, because there's not enough space for in the real world," or that the election of Donald Trump represents the "incontrovertible, humiliating vindication of scamming as the quintessential American ethos." The collection's chief strength is Tolentino's voice: sly, dry, and admittedly complicit in an era where "the choice...is to be destroyed or to morally compromise ourselves in order to be functional." While the insights aren't revelatory, the book's candid self-awareness and well-formulated prose, and Tolentino's ability to voice the bitterest truths "Everything, not least the physical world itself, is overheating" will gain Tolentino new fans and cement her reputation as an observer well worth listening to.