One reason the internet is anti-literary, then, is its allergy to weakness and “vulnerability,” a word I can scarcely bring myself to type without scare-quotes, so too-online am I. But as soft and goopy and embarrassing and easily coopted as “vulnerability” may be, it is also an essential ingredient in the novelistic recipe. A book that is as self-defensive as the resident cynics of Twitter can only be empty and fatiguing—after all, what makes the internet itself so empty and fatiguing is that its denizens become as prickly as porcupines curled into guarded balls. To be Extremely Online is to hear the condemning voices echoing in your head until they become your head, to erect so many proleptic barricades that you become a barricade with nothing cowering behind it. A novel composed the way tweets are composed, a novel reverse-engineered to satisfy the shit-posters, cannot but take a riskless form, designed above all to deflect hypothetical blows inflicted by hypothetical writers of hypothetical hatchet jobs. Sometimes I wonder if the point of the “fragment novel” is to reduce the size of the target at which to swing the axe.
∆ Becca Rothfeld, “Live, Laugh, Log Off,” The Baffler