Supremely creative and great voice. An incredibly incisive take on modern times.
I am so excited to read more from Lexi Friedman.
Canceled for an irreverent, humorous take on the opioid epidemic and the working class, Anna becomes taken with the philosophies of Ayn Rand and decamps to California to work in TV and live out her new Rand-ian discoveries.
Filled with humorous details and observations, this novel moves from the media and entertainment worlds of New York and Southern California to a commune in Europe to Athens. It follows this woman’s efforts to grapple with social success and status, aging, sexuality, and her own ego through various philosophies, from Ayn Randian glorification of the individual to a New Age meditation and focus on the present.
The narrator's voice and intelligence are engaging, and interesting social details carry me through the first third of the novel, but at that point the plot begins to sag from lack of significant action. Even though there are overall movements—the cancellation, emotions around a sexual relationship–and later, a move to a commune and a pregnancy—all of it is so filtered through and weighed down by the narrator’s intellectual analysis that I had trouble continuing to stay connected. The writing and observations are clever and funny, and it is a clear aesthetic choice that reveals Anna’s internal world and personality, but at a certain point, I began to feel the novel would have been better cast as a series of personal essays (or perhaps fictional personal essays written by this character).
The novel is smart and refreshing in its observations, so it could work for a reader who can be carried purely by the intellectual musings, but readers who need more action and narrative drama should look elsewhere.
A bitingly funny novel. Well, at least it started out that way, but lost some steam along the way. In the end, a three star for me.
The Book of Ayn was a delight to read, from start to finish. Crass, funny, sharp, witty, bold, biting, surprising, and profound. I loved Freiman’s humor and willingness to poke fun at virtually all kinds of people, and the final section in Greece was beautiful. Her ability to simultaneously make fun of some larger aspects of mindfulness and meditation while still embracing the core of their values is why I love writing, and adore literary novels that dare to be funny.
"No one lives at the edge of calamity without secretly wishing to be destroyed."
"I had written two books of over eighty thousand words each, and yet it was the single minute of ranting with the head of a sheep that had given me all the love and attention I’d ever craved."
The Book of Ayn is a very funny, very self-aware and VERY niche satire that will probably only resonate as something "real" to those who dwell in a particular corner of the Internet. The experience of interacting with someone who sees Ayn Rand as someone worth having feelings about AND as a figure who is a legitimate threat to civility and progressivism, is not as common as this novel's narrator assumes it to be. Your ability to connect with this book will probably depend on your exposure to certain online phenomena: TikTok, deepfakes, Red Scare & their flankers, online critics being more famous than artists, Twitter microcelebrities.
The emotional center of the story-- whether it pays to be self-serving rather than self-sacrificing as we live through a very sacrificial moment in history-- can sometimes feel like a fake problem, a big "who cares." I adored Freiman's sense of humor and pacing, and The Book of Ayn is strongest when looking outward and diagnosing the culture. There are a lot of really outstanding lines in here about generational divides, the boringness of modernity, the stupid feedback loop of pop culture. Freiman's narrator serves as a stand-in for a lot of familiar "edgy" Internet personalities-- people who can't help kicking hornets' nests then acting incredulous when they get stung. It's very satisfying to see this impulse explored so plainly, and in such a funny way. Freiman's weird, scatological imagery is so memorable in the first half of the book.
Unfortunately, for me, once this book loses Ayn (and a fondness for her ideas), it loses momentum. The narrator abandons her research and creative process developing a Bojack-Horseman-style Ayn-Rand-inspired TV show after what I thought were some pretty tame negative responses from acquaintances; and flees to a culty, spiritual commune where the goal is ego death. This makes The Book of Ayn feel like a different book entirely, like I was starting from scratch with a brand new character I knew almost nothing about. It was hard to maintain interest in this narrator who seemed defined only by petty grievances and a self-destructive streak. It doesn't help that the tone of the book seems to shift pretty dramatically once the commune is introduced-- introspective and vague, and not especially funny. Nothing nearly as concretely expressed in the book's first half.
The narrator's pettiness and self-destructiveness is sort of the point of the entire novel-- and as the narrator makes more and more transparently stupid choices, you do feel that subconscious death drive that so many millennials/Gen Z's seem to have. I just wish this very human idea was assigned to a character that felt more perceptive-- more Randian. There's no real judgement on Rand's ideas by the end, and essentially a return to self-interested form for the narrator. The second half of the book feels like a long, unnecessary diversion in this sense-- I found myself wishing she'd stuck to her guns and just MADE something, whether people liked it (or her) or not.
Still very much worth a read if you run in these circles or have felt worried about how nihilistic and "unreal" things are becoming.
Thanks to Catapult for the ARC <3
Hands down one of the most enjoyable books I've read this year, maybe ever. THE BOOK OF AYN tells the story of a writer reeling from cancellation, and her resulting fixation on Ayn Rand in the aftermath. This leads to a series of romp-like events---she lands an agent to write a TV show based on her Rand WIP, then spends the final third of the book in a retreat in Greece. The set pieces are so much fun, even if they stretch in credibility (I suppose this is a satire). I can't wait for others to get their hands on this.
Thanks to the publisher for the e-galley!
I really enjoyed this book! It's funny and dark and wry and really smart. The depressed and cool and vaguely alt girl who really wants to be accepted feels very in line with writers like Halle Butler and Mona Awad in a great way. I think a basic familiarity with Ayn Rand's politics will help readers understand the humor/irony from the start, but the book does a really solid job of contextualizing so don't pass on the book if you aren't already familiar. Ironically (or not??) I can see this being made into an A24 film. Definitely a sad gross hot girl book in the best ways.