Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion

Jia Tolentino

Book cover

If you’ve read Tolentino in the New Yorker, you know she is a great essay writer–compulsively readable and generally perceptive. These essays keep up that standard of quality, and while a few touch on topics she has written on there or elsewhere, I think the content here is mostly new. I think her best essays are the ones where she draws more deeply on personal experiences–“We Come from Old Virginia” was my favorite. My only real complaint with her writing is that she often puts her finger on a problematic aspect of our society or culture, but then just acknowledges that she partakes in it and is part of the problem. There is a certain appeal to this approach, and I definitely think it’s better than putting forward some pat solution focusing on individual virtue–and can help to identify the structural nature of some problems. But I would contrast her style with that of Jenny Odell, who communicates more deeply about how she has thought about and changed her own life in response to the issues she discusses–without pretending that she has a complete solution. I think Odell’s approach just requires a book-length treatment, and wouldn’t really be possible to implement in the short essay style found in this book.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars