2019 Reading Challenge

2019 Reading Challenge
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Book Review: Talk to Me by John Kenney

Nuance is dead. In its place, we have judgment. Instant judgment. That’s the world we’re living in. There’s no truth. There’s no fact. There’s only what you can get to trend. And it’s only getting worse.

I was almost one of those readers who gave up on this one but am SO glad I did not because in the end I thoroughly enjoyed its ups and downs. This is a cautionary tale that I think hits the contemporary obsession with social media on the head. A man – a mediocre husband and sub-optimal father who is also an immensely successful nightly news anchor – makes a dreadful statement about a young woman that is (of course) caught on video and instantly broadcast and rebroadcast ad infinitum via the marvels of the internet. The results are entirely predictable but no less startling for all that: the complete and total annihilation of his reputation, family, and career.

Some people will no doubt cheer at his comeuppance. He is, after all, a man who deserved one and it was a long time coming. But I did not (at least not for more than a few seconds) because I too fear the dangers of this instant-publication, instant-judgment world we seem to have stumbled into, in which foolish decisions live with us forever (or at least as forever as attention spans allow these days) because of their eternal presence in the cloud. I absolutely think people should pay for their mistakes. One of the biggest problems I think the world is currently facing is the way we seem to have stripped away vast swaths of accountability for the decisions that we make. But I don’t think that anyone anywhere is perfect and incapable of making said mistakes, and to make people pay for each and every thing they do as though it were the defining moment or element of their lives is (to me) a dangerous overreaction with far-reaching consequences. And to me, THAT is what this book is warning us about…

Ted’s journey is an incredible one, as is that of the reader who accompanies him. Kenney has a marvelous way with language. He doesn’t pull any punches – there is devastation following each and every one, whether for good or for ill, and that style made this particular story all the more resonant for me as a result. The characters are startlingly real, warts and all, and provided a melange of personalities, foibles, and surprising strengths and weaknesses when the chips were down.

He didn’t understand that the internet was the first creature in the history of the world that could live forever.

The internet…the world today…and the world is nothing if not the internet, Ted…it never, ever forgets. Or forgives. There is no mercy anymore Ted. Because we can see it again and again and again, as it happened. Not a story in a newspaper but that actual event. And it makes us angry. And we want you to pay…

This was a marvelous book. It was difficult to read at times, and it took me a lot longer to read than I expected because there was so much going on both on-scene and behind-the-scenes. It is definitely one that stuck with me, and I suspect I will be pondering many of the ideas and premises for some time… A great find!

Thanks to the Penguin First to Read program for my review copy.

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