Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion

Trick Mirror is an enlightening, unforgettable trip through the river of self-delusion that surges just beneath the surface of our lives. This is a book about the incentives that shape us, and about how hard it is to see ourselves clearly in a culture that revolves around the self. In each essay, Jia writes about the cultural prisms that have shaped her: the rise of the ni...

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Title:Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion
Author:Jia Tolentino
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Edition Language:English

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion Reviews

  • Michael

    Lucid and enlightening, the essays of Jia Tolentino’s debut collection

    consider what it means for Millennial women to navigate a culture of spectacle, scam, and oppression. In sharp prose across nine essays Tolentino takes on everything from the troubling rise of athleisure to America’s obsession with reality television, difficult women, and weddings; sketching brilliant fragments of cultural history for the digital age, the author demystifies perplexin

    Lucid and enlightening, the essays of Jia Tolentino’s debut collection

    consider what it means for Millennial women to navigate a culture of spectacle, scam, and oppression. In sharp prose across nine essays Tolentino takes on everything from the troubling rise of athleisure to America’s obsession with reality television, difficult women, and weddings; sketching brilliant fragments of cultural history for the digital age, the author demystifies perplexing trends and passionately critiques a society overtaken by rampant racism and misogyny. As with her articles for the

    , Tolentino laces her essays with caustic wit, and she clearly explains and makes accessible complex works of social theory, without stripping concepts of their nuance. All the pieces are brilliant and invite rereading.

  • Melanie

    I'd read Jia Tolentino's grocery lists if she let me.

  • Claire Reads Books

    Fantastic ✨ The nine essays in this razor-sharp collection circle around the notions of identity and the self that have become all-important and inescapable in the Internet era. With remarkable clarity and her formidable intellect, Tolentino highlights the distortions and self-delusions that have festered on digital platforms and begun to spread into our analog lives—and she considers the intellectual rewiring that might be necessary to free us from our overinflated selves. Highly recommended –

    Fantastic ✨ The nine essays in this razor-sharp collection circle around the notions of identity and the self that have become all-important and inescapable in the Internet era. With remarkable clarity and her formidable intellect, Tolentino highlights the distortions and self-delusions that have festered on digital platforms and begun to spread into our analog lives—and she considers the intellectual rewiring that might be necessary to free us from our overinflated selves. Highly recommended –

  • Oriana

    Recently my rad friend B and I got into it about Roxanne Gay's

    , which I loudly

    . B argued that it was wrong of me to judge it so harshly because I was not taking into account the deep biases I bring to my own reading. I remain unrepentant because those essays are extremely bad, but I

    acknowledge that I am only a combination of my life's influences: I grew up solidly middle-class, I am a cis-het woman and a Jew of European heritage, I went to a good liberal arts college

    Recently my rad friend B and I got into it about Roxanne Gay's

    , which I loudly

    . B argued that it was wrong of me to judge it so harshly because I was not taking into account the deep biases I bring to my own reading. I remain unrepentant because those essays are extremely bad, but I

    acknowledge that I am only a combination of my life's influences: I grew up solidly middle-class, I am a cis-het woman and a Jew of European heritage, I went to a good liberal arts college, and white American intellectual values are the waters in which I have always steeped. So perhaps when I say something utterly subjective like "those essays are extremely bad," I do only mean that they're bad

    , and if I were a queer black woman like B, raised and taught and influenced in different ways, all my opinions would be completely different.

    Be that as it may, I still am me, I still have the same brain and biases, and I will tell you this: Jia Tolentino is exactly everything I fucking love. This book (to me!) is basically perfect—devastatingly smart and endlessly fascinating and filled with essays that

    , that interrogate the modern condition from every angle and leave you gasping with new comprehensions. They are deeply researched and wildly illuminating and also even

    , sometimes, when they're not devastating or brutal or so intense you have to put the book down and go take a dazed walk to let your brain synapses cool their firings.

    Anyway, you don't really need me to tell you about Jia's brilliance, right? I mean, she's written and edited everywhere, from the Hairpin to Jezebel to now the

    (which excerpted one of this book's best essays: "

    "). As of this moment, her release week, she's on a press blitz so thorough that it's the subject of its own

    and

    . If you don't feel like scrolling through, find her

    on Elle,

    on the Paris Review, and

    on Vanity Fair; see her

    on Grub Street, her

    on In the Gloss, and

    on Jezebel. I could go on.

    But you're here, so go ahead and listen to me talk about this book some more. To wit: In one essay she writes about how the internet has fundamentally reoriented the truth so that what's important now is only what's important to

    ("The everyday madness perpetuated by the internet positions personal identity as the center of the universe"). In another, she dissects the perpetual burden of being an ideal woman in the days of self-optimization, managing to tie together chopped salads ("the perfect mid-day nutritional replenishment for the mid-level modern knowledge worker"), Barre classes ("the rapid-fire series of positions and movements resemble what a ballerina might do if you concussed her and then made her snort caffeine pills"), and athleisure ("tailor-made for a time when work is rebranded as pleasure so we will accept more of it").

    She writes explosively about the harrowing history of racism and rape at the University of Virginia, her alma matter, linking the recent ill-fated and retracted

    piece about fraternity rape all the way back to Thomas Jefferson and Saly Hemings—in fact, no, all the way back to ancient European "youthful war bands": wealthy young men who donned wolf hides and roved the forests looking for maidens to snatch, until they came of age and went home to find wives. She also writes about "difficult women" in a piece that considers everyone from Kim Kardashian to Madonna to Hope Hicks ("I feel as if feminist praxis has turned to acid and eaten through the floor. It's as if what's signified—sexism itself—has remained so intractable that we've mostly given up on rooting out its actual workings.").

    She also writes about the lie of the literary heroine, the history of the conman, the Fyre Festival, her time on a reality show as a teenager, corporate feminism, recoiling at the idea of marriage, and who even knows, everything else under the fucking sun. She is so smart and so savvy and so, so good, and I hope she's already at work on her next collection, because I cannot believe I'll have to go back to reading other people's essays now.

  • Perry

    RTC.

    An essay collection that's Fresh, Brilliant, Cerebrally Stimulating and Boundary-Expanding (for this Gen-X male, to be sure).

    The New Yorker has to be proud to have Jia Tolento as its millennial cultural critic.

    For the first time since I do not recall when, I am fired up about spending a few hours of my weekend revisiting several favorite parts of a book and writing a 5-star review.

    I am grateful to Random House and NetGalley for an ARC.

  • Conor

    If the attendees of my gay book club and various members of grouptexts are any indication, the Jia hype is for real. She has become something of a tribune for the millennial generation: funny and razor sharp, introspective and curious, she writes in a way that very often feels inspired. I followed Jia as she developed through stints at the Awl, the Hairpin, Jezebel, and finally the New Yorker, where she seems to have finally encountered an audience commensurate to her talents and the importance

    If the attendees of my gay book club and various members of grouptexts are any indication, the Jia hype is for real. She has become something of a tribune for the millennial generation: funny and razor sharp, introspective and curious, she writes in a way that very often feels inspired. I followed Jia as she developed through stints at the Awl, the Hairpin, Jezebel, and finally the New Yorker, where she seems to have finally encountered an audience commensurate to her talents and the importance of the issues she grapples with.

    Reading this book was a bit surreal: not only does Jia's work resonate as someone who belongs to the generation whose interests and experience are central to her writing, but we also ran in similar circles at the same college. It's odd enough to have someone describe the honeyed and cosseted life of your college experience to you, but it's even weirder to think "I was at that Girl Talk show where you talk about doing MDMA for the first time" and "I know this person whose peacock wedding you're describing!" Jia and I orbited in similar circles at UVA--I was friends with a lot of people in her sorority and she was only a year below us--but I don't recall any particular interactions in college aside from one email exchange we had joking about "As I Lay Dying" sequels. But I have no desire to overstate (or state) a relationship for Goodreads cool points. Ultimately I didn't have any strong impression of her upon graduation other than that a lot of people I was (and am still) friends with thought she was next-level cool.

    It wasn't until a few years later that traces of the numinous mind we're more familiar with in 2019 began to surface. She had this amazing blog (which she has regrettably made private) where she would say brilliant, pithy, poignant, piercing things about books, people, the Peace Corps, etc. I read it assiduously, and kicked myself for not getting to know her in college; it turned me onto (among others)

    . At a certain point the blog dried up and I continue to mourn its loss, but Jia's writing continued to sharpen as it became better known on the aforementioned sites.

    I remember in particular one post about her sitting in a cafe in Central Asia, going to the bathroom, and coming back to realize that she had left her laptop out to be stolen, and with it the novel she had been working on (and had not saved to the cloud, or email, or whatever people were doing in the early aughts to save their work). I remember thinking what a shame it was that some person stole and probably destroyed this laptop for a few hundred bucks, considering the work of intelligence and insight and perspective it no doubt contained. But I also remember mourning as a reader who would never get a chance to read her thoughts in book form. So it was with nostalgic excitement that I picked up "Trick Mirror," likely unimaginable at the time of the theft, and read Jia's first book. And it was just as entertaining, insightful, glancing, and tender as are the articles on which she built her reputation, and just as indicative of the thoughtfulness I've admired from afar, hopefully not too creepily, for the past decade.

  • Thomas

    I have to start this review by sharing that when I finished the last essay of

    , “I Thee Dread,” I literally started clapping and whisper screaming “oh my god, Jia really did

    ” and “ugh, queen of delivering a fatal blow to the capitalist patriarchal wedding industrial complex, we stan a self-aware icon.” Mind you, this fanboying took place while I sat alone on my couch in my apartment, where I’m typing this review right now. “I Thee Dread” serves both as an essay about ho

    I have to start this review by sharing that when I finished the last essay of

    , “I Thee Dread,” I literally started clapping and whisper screaming “oh my god, Jia really did

    ” and “ugh, queen of delivering a fatal blow to the capitalist patriarchal wedding industrial complex, we stan a self-aware icon.” Mind you, this fanboying took place while I sat alone on my couch in my apartment, where I’m typing this review right now. “I Thee Dread” serves both as an essay about how Jia Tolentino has never wanted to get married and an analysis of weddings more broadly, their history and social function. This piece encapsulates what Tolentino accomplishes when she reaches her peak in this collection, a powerful examination of her own psyche and how it runs parallel to the forces of history and popular culture. Here’s a quote from “I Thee Dread” that I love:

    Tolentino applies this sharp insight to a gamut of fascinating topics throughout

    , including: how we construct ourselves on the internet, the constant pressure we face to optimize every aspect of our lives, rape culture in relation to her alma mater the University of Virginia, the American scammer as millennial hero, and more. Several reviewers have used the word “millennial” to describe this collection and I feel like that fits. These essays all feel timely, fresh, and almost funny in a “I’m feeling distressed about the crushing rise of student debt so here’s a meme that I’ll post on Twitter about the collapse of the climate thanks to global capitalism” kinda way. What I admire most about this collection is Tolentino’s voice. Her writing voice is confident, distinct, and captivating, yet consistently aware of its own potential shortcomings. I also appreciated her incisive feminist takes that pushed the envelope on more mainstream liberal ideologies, such as by explicitly naming whiteness and how characters of Asian ethnicity are pushed into the background, as well as how having women adopt the role of the male oppressor (e.g., serving as prison guards instead of abolishing prisons altogether) may not truly further justice.

    I did feel at times that some of these essays felt like they drifted away out of her control, like they would go on these stream-of-consciousness explorations whereas I wanted a bit more focus around a central point or argument. At the same time, I applaud Tolentino for an impressive essay collection which I hope many people will read. She includes “reflections on self-delusion” in the title which I think fits very well. Once you gain an awareness of the delusions you tell yourself, you move one step closer to freeing yourself and living your life on your own terms.

    I also want to end this review with one more quote from the “I Thee Dread” essay because I loved it so much (as ya’ll can probably tell). Here it is:

  • Blair

    I don't know if I’m going to have the time to write about this in the depth I would like, so I will just say that I finished

    feeling I’d probably read any article Jia Tolentino writes about any topic, and I’d

    read her memoirs. The personal stories woven through these essays bring the book to vibrant life. The autobiographical essays tend to be the strongest, particularly ‘Reality TV Me’, in which Tolentino revisits her experience of competing on a TV show at the age of 16

    I don't know if I’m going to have the time to write about this in the depth I would like, so I will just say that I finished

    feeling I’d probably read any article Jia Tolentino writes about any topic, and I’d

    read her memoirs. The personal stories woven through these essays bring the book to vibrant life. The autobiographical essays tend to be the strongest, particularly ‘Reality TV Me’, in which Tolentino revisits her experience of competing on a TV show at the age of 16 (this essay could easily pass as a brilliant short story); ‘We Come from Old Virginia’, in which she reckons with the controversial history of her alma mater, the University of Virginia in Charlottesville; and ‘Ecstasy’, about religion and drugs, in which she writes hypnotically about the woozy hip-hop subgenre of ‘chopped and screwed’.

    I can’t remember the last time I read non-fiction and came away with such a fierce sense of the author

    which, I think, is partly because Tolentino is so unlike the cliche: raised in an evangelical megachurch in the American south; a straight-A student as a teenager, but also a cheerleader and a reality TV star; blithely, unapologetically open about her past and current drug use. It's not just that she’s a happy extrovert – though this in itself is unusual enough to stand out as memorable – but that this aspect of her character shines bright through her writing (without obscuring it). Indeed, it’s not the subjects of the essays that really leave an impression, but the way Tolentino writes around them, and the impression they create of the author as a luminous person, full of impossible confidence both as an individual and in her craft – someone I am ravenously jealous of.

    So, yes, this is a collection of essays about modern society and pop culture by a young female writer, and there are many other examples of that kind of thing. You might feel there are already enough of them in the world; that this one doesn’t need your attention. But I can also honestly say I have never read anything quite like

    Trick Mirror

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  • Sarah

    It took me a while to get used to Jia Tolentino's style of writing (the essays jump around a bit at times and get a little stream of consciousness-y) but there are some real gems in this collection. For me she's at her best when talking about social media, gender, women and media, but I found something to admire or enjoy in almost all of the essays in this personal collection.

  • Kelly

    I really loved this. I’ve been reading Jia Tolentino’s stuff ever since she started at Jezebel- we’re roughly the same age and she got assigned stuff I was guaranteed to click on, so I’ve read a fair amount. Some of her NYer pieces were even better, after she was freed from needing to write in Internet witty speak all the time and could show other tricks and styles she had up her sleeve. And I’d say those two voices and experiences are about equally on display here, to mostly utterly fantastic e

    I really loved this. I’ve been reading Jia Tolentino’s stuff ever since she started at Jezebel- we’re roughly the same age and she got assigned stuff I was guaranteed to click on, so I’ve read a fair amount. Some of her NYer pieces were even better, after she was freed from needing to write in Internet witty speak all the time and could show other tricks and styles she had up her sleeve. And I’d say those two voices and experiences are about equally on display here, to mostly utterly fantastic effect.

    Seriously though, some of this was straight up brilliant. “The I in Internet” and “Always Be Optimizing,” should be read in college classes and debated on tv by public intellectuals, if this country had such a thing. (“Optimizing” in particular hit me where I lived and I read it several times over. There’s a great excerpt of it in The Guardian from a few weeks ago that you should all check out.) I thought “Story of a Generation in Seven Scams” was a really well laid out argument for why a lot of millennials’ politics and choices in their own lives may have turned out the way they did, given the parade of lies and con jobs that was the years of our awakening to political consciousness-from the Iraq War to the financial crisis to Amazon to bogus VC firms to the student debt crisis to our current president. When you put it all together like that I hope at least a few Boomer heads hang in shame. “The Cult of the Difficult Woman” was strong too. I loved the part where she tried to start a hard conversation around criticizing the appearance of conservative spokeswomen as a crucial part of the work they do in defending the ideas they’re paid to defend- and how sometimes looks can be up for discussion, with a point behind the observation that is relevant beyond as hominem attacks.

    I respected the attempt to come to terms with her teenage choice to go on reality TV in “Reality TV Me” but while she made a good start, the essay ultimately failed at its apparent intentions of being honest with herself- she ended on a note of defending her actions and pointing out her specialness despite everything. It’s a hard task, I know, but maybe she needed to wait a few more years to disconnect a bit more? I thought Ecstasy had some lovely lines and images because she’s a fantastic writer but was somewhat overwrought and made a not very original point about the feelings produced by drugs and religion having a lot in common. Pure Heroines was fine but a bit too neat- it read like a school essay-, and I Thee Dread wasn’t finished yet. I think it should have been cut until she was ready to take it further than she did.

    But overall, this is a thoughtful, perceptive, beautifully written, highly relevant collection of essays on 21st century society’s major issues, particularly those to do with self-presentation, seeking connection and negotiating being a woman with truth and integrity in a world that is still nowhere near equal. And I can only imagine she’ll get better as she keeps writing more. I bought this in hardback at the actual bookstore the day it came out and I’ll do the same for whatever her next collection may be. She’s earned it.

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