3 New Books About the Dangers of Going Viral
Going viral can be exciting and terrifying at the same time, particularly if it’s not for a positive reason. It’s almost impossible to control the reaction of the internet at large, and having your face and name out there can be a magnet for praise, criticism, or out-and-out life-ending harassment. The three new books in this week’s book club have all been touched by the viral phenomenon. They’re all based on how the nature and trends of viral media have shaped our concepts of celebrity, activism, punishments, and justice, whether that affects the books’ characters or the authors themselves. Give them a click.
“He was tired of the shame. Tired of the deep sadness for the loss of his life. Of everything that had once seemed to make sense and now didn’t. He was tired of being afraid of what would happen next, of what other public embarrassment would come his way. He had lost something vital to the living process that he was unable to name. He heard the lead-in in his head. Ted Grayson, the longtime anchor of the evening news, died today in an embarrassing skydiving accident on eastern Long Island. Sources say the disgraced former newsman may have taken his own life. He was fifty-nine. (brief pause) When we come back: peanuts. Are they the new superfood?”
Dana Diaz is an aspiring comic who’s come back to Austin from LA to compete in the yearly “Funniest person in Austin” contest, which promises $5,000 for the winner and potential agents and deals for anyone who makes it to the finals. Coming off a disappointing, preparatory set with some charged, sexist heckling, she meets Amanda Dorn, who offers a drink and a sympathetic ear in appreciation of Dana’s unflappability. Amanda was a programmer for an app; an attractive blonde, she was blacklisted from Silicon Valley after reporting her dick-pic-sending boss, and when her story hit social media, she was doxxed and swatted (her contact information made public and a dangerous SWAT team maliciously called to her door). Like Dana, she also moved to LA, but did so to “disappear,” and had to flee again in the wake of a jealous, controlling ex.
: Roupenian herself is an internet star who learned the perils of social media. Her controversial and hotly debated short story, “Cat Person,” about the set of cultural expectations that often leave young women feeling unable to refuse a sexual encounter after its initiation, went viral after it was published in The New Yorker at the end of 2017. That story, and several others, are included in Roupenian’s new collection of short fiction. (Emphasis on fiction: Many readers assumed “Cat Person” was autobiographical, to Roupenian’s dismay. It was not.) The collection, which dwells on the monstrous, twisted aspects of humanity and human interaction, begins with a story of a couple who inadvertently invite a friend, depressed after a break-up, into an uneasy, semi-permanent role in their lives and relationship: