What do you do when you start a blog that gains national attention and then feel as though you’ve moved beyond it? The answer for debut author Shapiro is, write a novel about it.
The tale starts in New York City in 2008, when the narrator, named David like the author, meets a girl. After he graduates, he's faced with a paralyzing question familiar to many: What now? He gets a job filing and starts a blog in his free time critiquing and responding to posts on the popular music website Pitchfork. He calls it Pitchfork Reviews Reviews. (In real life, Shapiro created a blog with the same name.) Things work out with the girl, and then they don’t. As the blog gains more and more attention, David is elated by its success even as he realizes that his newfound fame doesn’t solve his girl problems, family problems or money problems. Some of David’s struggles are achingly familiar: His parents want what’s best for him, but their ideas on the subject are very different from his. He tries to balance their desires (go to law school) with his own (he's not always sure what they are). For the most part, though, the novel reads as a basic account of the events leading to the rise and fall of Pitchfork Reviews Reviews. The details of David’s life feel skin-deep and grow tedious without any deeper character exploration. “For a second, I wonder if I just use Pitchfork as a lightning rod for how disappointed I feel about almost everything in my life,” David tells us, “but that’s beside the point.” While it may be beside the point for the narrator, as readers we want more.
While the writing has a certain wit, it’s hard to relate to a narrator whose novel dismisses most opportunities for emotional depth.