Photography by Pete Voelker.

My Media Diet: the incisive Fake Accounts author Lauren Oyler

A book critic for The London Review of Books has become an author herself with a compelling debut novel about a woman who discovers her boyfriend is a conspiracy theorist.

When I worked at Dazed magazine, the author Lauren Oyler had a regular books column titled Bound and Flogged. While this may have been a classic bait-and-switch – the reader tricked into thinking they’d be treated to some kind of S&M‑themed editorial when, in fact, they would be reading about books – it made sense as a heading to house the acerbic prose of the incisive and well-read Oyler. (They were, after all, bound objects that we were recommending to help sell.)

Oyler, best known until now as a book critic for the likes of The London Review of Books and The New Yorker, among others, has been professionally reviewing fiction (and non-fiction, and book trailers, and trends) for nearly a decade. Like all good critics, she has pissed people off in the process. Writers with fragile egos have come to probably loathe her for saying it how it is. A fault-finding review of Jia Tolentino’s heavily praised Trick Mirror allegedly crashed The London Review of Books website.

Her debut novel, Fake Accounts, out next week, now offers the unique opportunity to have other very online writers take a stab at the work of a critic. It is about a girl who meets her boyfriend on a Berlin pub crawl. She later discovers that he has become a conspiracy theorist after Trump’s 2016 electoral win by hacking into his phone (OK, she knows the password, but still). It’s compelling, of its time and full of the interior self-censoring and double-guessing of emotion that a lot of people suffer.

It’s a fantastic read, and while it isn’t autobiographical despite the protagonist being a girl who lives in Berlin and wears glasses, it certainly contains a lot of the authoritative wisdom Oyler has likely acquired through a surplus of reading. What does the author do, consume, absorb when she’s not writing herself? Behold, her media diet.

The last article I found myself thinking about was…

I just read The Painted Word” by Tom Wolfe, which started as a Harper’s article, but you probably want something more recent. Um… lately I’ve thought about a couple of articles that people were mad about online, in order to determine whether the mad people were right” or whether they were misconstruing the articles in order to get mad. With one, the mad people were being ridiculous; with another, they had a point.

The last new artist I discovered on Spotify was…

Not technically new, but Judie Tzuke, via a friend playing Nighthawks, which is so far the only one of her songs I’ve really pursued. It’s so 80s, which I love. Initially, I didn’t realise she was making music in the 80s, so I thought, Wow, the indie music these days is REALLY 80s.” I’m a very passive consumer of Spotify (and of music in general) so whenever this happens I get excited.

The last picture I liked on Instagram was…

I’m sure the most accurate answer to this is a Bookstagrammer’s photo of Fake Accounts.” But that doesn’t say very much about me. I follow two great accounts: @in_otternews, which is pictures of otters, and @andreaardendogtraining, which posts near-daily stories featuring their puppy playgroup. This means that there are always videos of a bunch of different breeds of puppies playing together on their feed! I think this is what Instagram is for. Otherwise, I don’t think I like things there very often, except announcements of my friends’ career/​life news, or particularly funny things. I recently liked a photo of an acquaintance’s new cat, which is very cool and interesting-looking.

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The last TikTok I sent to a friend was…

I’ve never done this! I don’t do TikTok. Not for a political reason, I’m just happy to not have another platform to monitor, so I cultivate not doing it.

The last series I binged (or watched a lot of) was…

IMPOSTERS!!! It’s a scripted Bravo show from 2017 – maybe their first scripted show? – that is now on Netflix. It’s over the top but pretty self-aware and funny in other ways, and I really like Marianne Rendón, who shows up about halfway through the first season and reveals herself to be a great comedic actress. Plus it has a ridiculous number of twists that I was genuinely nervous about. This is the right level of TV for many purposes. Though I also love Berlin Babylon and miss it.

The last book I stayed awake reading was…

Based on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan.

The last new word I learned was…

I started doing German classes (again) so I’ve learned a lot of new words recently. My favourite is hinterhältig,” which means sneaky”!

The last meme that made me laugh aloud was…

I think Bernie Mittens was good. We’re really in the meme trough after that. It’s going to take a lot of hard work to get back there.


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