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Monday, May 16, 2022

Book review: Glitterati by Oliver K. Langmead

 


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

AUTHOR INFO: Oliver Langmead is an author and poet based in Glasgow. His long-form poem, Dark Star, featured in the Guardian's Best Books of 2015. Oliver is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Glasgow, where he is researching terraforming and ecological philosophy, and in late 2018 he undertook a writing residency at the European Space Agency's Astronaut Centre in Cologne, writing about astronauts and people who work with astronauts.

Publisher: Titan Books (May 17, 2022) Page count: 288 pages Cover art:


"Today was Friday, which meant neon"

Glitterati is wild. It explores the insane world of hardcore fashionistas who despise ugliness. And denim (shudder).

The Ultrarich live a life of absolute luxury, isolated from “uglies” (the normal people), and have their every whim catered to. Simone is one of them. Unaware of his overwhelming financial power (he doesn’t even know what money is), he enjoys life and beauty in all forms. As long as colorful cocktails complement his attire, and others admire him, life is good.

Unlike most Glitterati, however, Simone doesn’t just follow new fashion trends, he accidentally sets new ones. Call it intuition. Like when he gets a nosebleed at the party, but someone else takes credit for that new trend (which inevitably leads to overzealous fashionistas lobotomizing themselves while trying to make their noses bleed with something sharp). This accident starts Simone’s feud with Justine, which has dire consequences.

Glitterati had me enthralled with its fast pace and wild ideas. I followed Simone’s story with bated breath and laughed a lot. I love grotesque elements woven into the narrative, and Langmead incorporates them effortlessly into the narrative. And the world of Glitterati IS absurd: their memories are regularly erased because retaining traumatic (or even unpleasant) memories can lead to esthetic impairment (with symptoms such as frowning, sighing, or weeping; not esthetic.) If you’re foolish enough to wear something unfashionable, you’ll be ostracized and ridiculed. Fashions change all the time, and some trends are dangerous - like a fashion for deadly clothes. Yup, as in outfits that can kill you at any moment.

Because of frequent memory erasure, Glitterati have no memory of their childhood. They don’t even know what a child is. When a child gets lost on Simone and Georgie’s property and they find it unconscious, they decide to dispose of the body, but are afraid that if they touch it, they’ll catch a disease that made the child small and unfashionable.

It’s wild, I tell you, but in the best possible way. Manic, effortlessly and darkly funny, utterly unpredictable. Now, a word about Simone. Some readers will hate him from the start. Like all Glitterati, he’s comically self-absorbed and empty. Fashion is his religion, as is beauty. I adored his narration and even cheered for him to win the fight for the latest suit from the Dramaskil’s Blue collection! If you can connect with absurd characters, you’ll be ok. If, however, you prefer protagonists you can relate to, well, look for them elsewhere. To be fair, Simone changes significantly as the story progresses (though the change happens in the last 20% of the book).

The world takes place in a dystopian world with Vibro-rails gliding across cities, but the world-building is minimal. There’s little explanation of how The Glitterati function or how the economics work. Hundreds of people rely on Glitterati's continued placidity and living in the moment without focusing on trivial things (like money). Don’t expect any in-depth examination of the dystopia, though. You won’t get one.

I loved Glitterati; it’s probably the craziest book I read this year. And the most fun. I recommend it to anyone looking for a wild read that doesn’t take itself seriously and makes entertainment its priority. Great prose and Langmead's vivid imagination make it a pleasure to read.


 

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