If the measure of a satirist’s blade is how many accurate and quiet incisions it can make in its target – in this case, a society that has forgotten how to be self-critical – then Tony Tulathimutte’s scalpel of cultural dissection is very sharp indeed. The further one progresses in his debut novel, a tale of four millennial graduates failing to succeed in San Francisco during the 2000s, the more lacerated the body of contemporary America becomes, until it’s a skeleton held together by the abstractions of information age jargon, moral relativism and pathological self-consciousness. Beginning with the Bay Area itself, little escapes Tulathimutte’s knife: ‘Here the raindrops were smaller, the hustle slower, everything tolerated ... this little ukulele-strumming cuddle party. A They Might Be Giants song set in concrete.’ The novel continues in this deliciously vicious vein for nearly four hundred pages, its verve and linguistic agility reminiscent of the best literary comic performers.
The book begins in 2007 with four college friends ‘on a day trip, a nothing ... in the hot car speeding north’, all in ‘a weird hurry to turn thirty’. All except the worldly ex-addict and former dominatrix Linda, who had been ‘twenty-one since she was fourteen’. An