This week the internet is excited about a short story on the New Yorker called Cat Person. I read it, loved it, and will probably write about it soon.
In a strange coincidence, this morning I picked up Lauren Beukes’ latest collection Slipping and flicked through looking for a short story to read. I landed on ‘Confirm/Ignore’ a story about the worlds we build for ourselves and about ourselves online.
First line: Yellow is my favourite color. That’s what I’d like you to believe. (Okay, I added two lines, but it was necessary for you to get what the point of the story was).
The story is narrated by one character, who from the start of the story reveals to us that they are not what they seem. They describe their interests, religious beliefs, favourite authors and films, and they share friends with the person they’re talking to. Of course, as we all know from being online, what people share there isn’t a reflection of who they really are, or sometimes who they are at all.
Like Cat Person Beukes’ short story asks us to examine what we’re consuming and producing online without being didactic. It explores the lies we tell to build the relationships and persona that we want online, sometimes without being deliberately deceitful, and other times on purpose. It doesn’t say ‘HEY LOOK HERE THIS CHARACTER IS LYING’, but from those first two sentences we know they are.
Slipping is a mixed collection of stories and essays and ‘other writing’ from Beukes. She’s a celebrated South African writer, with four novels, a bunch of graphic fiction, and two other non-fiction books under her belt. In three short pages, she managed to capture something we can all relate to and to remind me to check my friends list on Facebook to make sure those are my real ‘friends’.
I also really enjoyed Slipping the story, about a sort of cyborg Olympics gone one AI step too far. Like I did, you can get the collection at the amazing Book Lounge.