The Book Reader: 'Private Citizens'

Bari Weiss of the Wall Street Journal reviews Tony Tulathimutte's "Private Citizens" in NY1’s The Book Reader.

It’s blazing outside - the time of summer when you can’t seem to find a corner of the city that doesn’t smell like boiling garbage. If you’re like me you want to escape.

Here’s one solution: “Private Citizens,” published earlier this year by first-time novelist Tony Tulathimutte.

The book follows four millennials—Stanford graduates now in their freshmen and sophomore years of real life in the Bay Area. There’s Cory, a dreadlocked, Jewish, social-justice warrior who lives in a commune but is desperately lonely. Linda, who believes she is destined to be a literary great, has a purse full of various pills and powders and has freelanced as a dominatrix. Henrik is a brilliant biomedical engineering student pursuing his PHD while facing down depression and budget cuts. Will has found professional success as a coder, but he’s addicted to porn and considering getting surgery to make his eyelids look less Asian.

If those descriptions make you roll your eyes, I get it—these are the hyper-privileged, obnoxious, self-centered, broke-by-choice types that it's very easy to loathe. But the author’s in on the joke: You will laugh out loud at his satirical treatment of Silicon Valley start-ups, activists obsessed with checking their privilege, and, of course, San Francisco itself. Tulathimutte is razor-sharp and funny.

What makes the book special, though, is that it moves beyond satire—it’s easy to make fun of millennials and start-ups without vowels—and shows us the depth and vulnerability of each member of this motley crew as they stumble and carry each other into something like adulthood.

I loved it.

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