Ephemeral, jagged, tailored to the mind of a 15-year-old, is the digital network pushing humanity into cretinism?
Writing a good novel about the Internet is almost as difficult as shooting a good film about the effects of drugs. You may try all the available fireworks, and you’ll still fail. Blurred images, out-of-focus edges, tweaked sitar sounds, ridiculous echoes, and still you’ll get nothing close to representing the experience.
So far, defining the Internet with the language of literature has been as hard as explaining consciousness. Attempts to subsume the Internet into contemporary literature have been embarrassing. How can the instrument of knowledge understand itself? How can our own mind, slowly melting into a server where we store our photographs, memories, comments, emotions, chats, bank details, dreams and aspirations, understand its own technological nature? More importantly, how can a powerful instrument of meaning like literature be used to understand what seems to be its nemesis, the constantly distracting need for useless and disconnected novelties—the Internet of social networks?
One writer has succeeded in this mission, and in such a creative manner that, although everything indicated he would miss the mark, he triumphed. First of all, he wrote it on a computer. And he sees the contradiction: “Now writers used computers, which were the by-products of global capitalism’s uncanny ability to run the surplus population into perpetual servants. All of the world’s computers were built by slaves in China.”
Jarett Kobek, the author of I Hate the internet knows what he’s doing. And he tells you. In detail. It’s beyond meta-literature. It’s pure brilliance.
Writing “a bad novel”
It’s hard to write about the Internet because it is so ephemeral. Harder still is it to have the guts to self-publish a novel built with the hyperbolic language of online interaction. And then to market it as “a bad novel” that promises to mimic the Internet “in its irrelevant and jagged presentation of content.”
Kobek delivers on the promise, because his style is a mix between a troll’s rant against Silicon Valley’s tech barons and the language of Wikipedia entries, which is actually inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5.
I Hate the internet—A Useful Novel Against Men, Money, and the Filth of instagram, as the full title explains, has become an immediate sensation after an enthusiastic review in The New York Times. But it is a text that most publishing companies couldn’t print because of its candid attack on so much that Western society stands for. Including publishing companies. Funnily enough, success arrived thanks to the Internet. Kobek used his enemy’s weakness for the first successful pushback against the culture of Silicon Valley’s smiling billionaires—the perfect Judo move.
“Actually,” he admitted, “I could have called it I Hate Four Companies and Social Media. But that is such a bad title.” Indeed, the attack is not on the entire Internet, but mostly on its social media phase.
We knew about this
The damage to our privacy caused by the explosions of anonymous rage online has been diagnosed long ago. So don’t be surprised if the backbone of the plot of this book is simply the story, set in San Francisco in 2013, of 45-year-old Alina, a comic book artist, semi-famous in the 90s, who is ravaged by a Twitter storm.
It all happens because someone posts a YouTube video where Alina dares to publicly say that singer Beyonce has done nothing for social progress. The fans’ attack is vicious and life-changing for Alina and her friends.
The plot’s kernel is something you can find in TV series like ‘Black Mirror’ and ‘Mr. Robot’, or in the sit-com ‘Silicon Valley’, which mocks Internet moguls who constantly promise “to make the world a better place.” But in this book, as the narrator warns us, “the plot, like life, resolves into nothing and features emotional suffering without meaning.”
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