SOCIAL SCIENCES

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion

Random. Aug. 2019. 304p. ISBN 9780525510543. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780525510550. SOC SCI
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In her debut, New Yorker writer Tolentino turns a critical eye on herself and, in doing so, highlights the troubling images reflected in current American culture. These essays examine reality TV, physical optimization, rape culture, and more, and pieces about constructing identity on the Internet—from Geocities to Twitter trolling to the scam of the Fyre Festival—are especially timely and affecting. Tolentino’s take on these topics is dark—the word nightmare is often used to describe the depressing effects of social media—and the author finds that an overriding theme is the desire to be seen, even if the image isn’t always positive. Overall, she highlights how people must ignore the rot of the world in order to function day to day, which might be the most sinister thing of all. The book is thoroughly researched, and nearly every page contains a revelation about contemporary culture. Tolentino’s writing is just personal enough to put a human aspect to her points, so that readers feel them intimately, and she admits her own unseemly qualities with the same attention by which she examines the rest of the world. The final essay on marriage lags behind what is otherwise a cutting, brilliant collection.

VERDICT An incisive collection that cements Tolentino as one of her generation’s greatest cultural critics.

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