Novelist and cultural critic Strobe Witherspoon interrogates his own profession. It goes terribly.
Strobe Witherspoon just sold his latest satirical novel for a lot of money. The book, FLOTUS: A Memoir, is a fictional autobiography about a former first lady of the United States reflecting on years of misery at the hands of her much older POTUS husband. When a chapter is leaked in advance of the book’s publication, an Online Outrage Fiesta (OOF) ensues via news outlets, blogs, Twitter, troll farms, and everything in between. Witherspoon, a self-proclaimed radical provocateur, has his life placed under a microscope. Family secrets are exposed. Now, an anthology has been put together to document Witherspoon’s downfall—and settle the score.
OOF explores the role of satire in a society lurching from one ridiculous crisis to the next, where media outlets rely on clicks to stay alive, and everything is filtered through a lens of anger and misinformation.
Plot: Strobe Witherspoon’s OOF, a book of cynicism and social commentary, debates satire’s place in the media and the shielded coverage of public figures. With an ironic fictional setting— a genre intended to entertain— the author inspects what amount of nonfiction actually involves the real world, how much is sensationalized, and how publications and news consumers choose to respond to these reports.
Prose/Style: Witherspoon tiptoes around the language formed in Schenck v. U.S. Even his character’s dilemma feels strikingly similar to modern cases like Hustler Magazine v. Falwell. With his fictional narrative, he continues the free press debate and dramatizes First Amendment history, moments where even comic falsehood was close to censorship.
Originality: OOF ask readers to determine the role of authorship in both fiction and nonfiction and the journalistic ethics while representing subjects. At times, the novel in question disappears from the story completely, but that may be Witherspoon’s purpose—to show that people care less about the topic itself and more about their voice on the matter.
Character Development/Execution: OOF is a chaotic meld of misinformation and competing notions of truth. It is a discussion on what constitutes news, and who is eligible to provide that information. Witherspoon’s novel seems to suggest that in the new era of journalists this includes anyone with a platform, an audience, and an opinion.
Date Submitted: April 09, 2021
Witherspoon (the real one, not the one in the book) creates a sense of authenticity through skillful recreations of media sources. For example, the narrative starts with the story of the book itself as it might appear in Publishers Weekly before moving on to news reports, podcasts, and blog posts about the leak--and then the reactions on Twitter. The autobiography at OOF’s heart chronicles years of abuse and neglect the First lady suffered at the hands of her husband, but in the ensuing chaos kicked off by the revelations, the main victim is Whiterspoon, who the novel’s The New Yorker calls a “foreign policy analyst, turned novelist, turned meme punching bag.” OOF showcases a variety of voices, tones, and approaches to mass-media storytelling. Sometimes sad and sometimes hilarious, the wildly entertaining result illuminates the dark side to fame, circa 2021.
Eventually, as the story edges toward the dystopian, it all gets to be too much for the fictional Witherspoon, who declares “I must take responsibility for my destiny. This circus must end. Words are not enough. Update forthcoming. :)” In the fiction, this engaging book about our online lives is not available in the United States. Fortunately, that doesn’t apply to the real world. This readily purchasable novel will appeal to anyone fascinated by the impact of social media and mediated perception.
Takeaway: This highly mediated satire cleverly apes an “Online Outrage Fiesta.”
Great for fans of: Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story, Hank Green’s An Absolutely Remarkable Thing.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
“an impressive achievement of unflinching honesty from a noteworthy talent, as resonant and relevant as it is entertaining …OOF tugs at the threads that connect American cynicism with radical extremism and weaves a character-rich tapestry of insight …Each voice, whether of a New Yorker journalist or an Internet influencer, is rendered with uncanny fidelity. Perhaps most masterful is that key events are not depicted but merely alluded to, occurring off-camera between entries, allowing the text to provide an elegant framework for a more personal story painted almost invisibly in the negative space."
Told through fictional news articles, book excerpts, and social media posts, OOF is a sly satire that imagines a world overrun by internet toxicity. In Strobe Witherspoon’s black comedy novel OOF, a political satirist’s latest project sparks online outrage that leads to a real-world catastrophe. When Strobe decides to write a parody memoir about an unnamed but recognizable first lady, he doesn’t expect the entire online world to get so upset about it. Or perhaps he does. Despite claiming he has no agenda beyond lampooning people with agendas, it becomes clear that everyone has an angle, whether it be money, attention, love, protection, or human connection.
"A strikingly original book that astutely captures an era of division…an innovative literary experiment that supplies a thoughtful commentary on the ‘discourse virus’ of our age…Witherspoon’s eclectic work effectively documents the feverish public reaction to the impending publication of his latest book as a “compendium” of the “Online Outrage Fiesta” which gives the novel its title. He tackles a broad spectrum of media, including comically scathing excerpts from tweets, podcasts, blogs, and even academic journals and also keenly exposes the ways in which Strobe, the character, is implicated in his own online assault, due to his obsessive attachment to public life.”
"entertaining and thought-provoking, OOF combines satire and serious social inspection in a novel format that will intrigue literary, political, and social issues readers alike."
Four out of four stars
"Those interested in "the low art of chronicling human stupidity" will not be able to put this book down ...Fans of works like Dear Committee Members will immediately find a new favorite in this book."