Like/dislike, love/hate, inside/outdoors: Wiener’s formulations attain for rigor, for some deep reality about knowability, however find yourself wimping out. She begins arguments she will be able to’t end, not solely with herself however along with her new colleagues. She’s stunned at any time when one-on-one interactions admit of nuances disallowed by her standard-issue assumptions. Billionaires are unhealthy, besides the one who befriends her. Tech bros assume the identical manner, besides her roboticist boyfriend. Maybe these conflicts are supposed to echo the Bay Space itself, a land so riven by self-contradiction it’s on the verge of religious collapse, however the conclusion continues to be unenlightening. Was Didion ever so flimsy or indulgent? Her moralities had been nonnegotiable. Wiener, perfecting that New York–nourished millennial mode, can’t discover new that means, solely proof, all over the place, of meaninglessness.
To remain sane as everybody round her drinks the Kool-Support (or butter espresso), Wiener by no means relinquishes her outsider standing. As an alternative, she tells herself she’s making good on her faculty diploma and doing sociology—tech as her laboratory. Right here often is the supply of the wrestle. Although she lives contained in the glass cage, she walks round it as if from the opposite aspect, mistaking reflections for embodied actuality. She’s dominated by appearances, by wanting and seeing. Observing the ruggedly dressed workforce: “They regarded prepared to assemble kindling and construct a lean-to … They regarded in costume to LARP their weekend selves.” Observing commuters: “They regarded drained, resigned, sheepish. Principally, they checked out their telephones.” Observing businessfolk within the Monetary District: “They regarded a lot older than we did … They regarded straight out of one other period, just like the nineties.” No quantity of taking a look at one thing, alas, makes it come alive. (Except you’re on medicine. Which Wiener is, at one level. You’re comfortable for her.)
What makes this all of the extra irritating is that Wiener can write an immaculate sentence. Just like the very first one, an immediate basic: “Relying on whom you ask, it was both the apex, the inflection level, or the start of the tip for Silicon Valley’s startup scene—what cynics referred to as a bubble, optimists referred to as the longer term, and my future coworkers, excessive on the fumes of world-historical potential, breathlessly referred to as the ecosystem.” Rhythmical, urbane, and have a look at that lovely “whom”! (Excessive on her personal fumes, although, she lets the difficult pronoun outline her, utilizing it within the e-book at the least 15 occasions.) In sections on the ephemerality of software program, the exigencies of telecommuting, and thought-trends in tech—rationalism, city-building, UBI—Wiener’s well-honed phrases pierce by way of the standard chatter.
She’s additionally a grasp of the descriptive arts. A scorching tub at a spa-themed social gathering turns into “a sous vide tub of genitalia.” Stylish sneakers she buys however by no means wears are a “monument to the tip of sensuousness.” Jeff Bezos is a “chelonian ex–hedge funder.” She by no means truly names Bezos. In truth, she makes use of only a few correct nouns. Apart from the occasional first identify of a pal, each character or firm, those she’s labored for in addition to those everyone is aware of, is glossed with a pithy phrase. The coy ploy, in subversive deference to NDA tradition, ranges from efficient (“the social community everyone hated”—Fb) to distracting (“a computer-animation studio well-known for its high-end kids’s leisure”—Pixar?).
Sentence-level thrives by no means add as much as text-level sophistication, although. Nor do they make this memoir literary, a descriptor Wiener is clearly chasing. Past Didion, Wiener’s different main affect appears to be Ellen Ullman. Ullman, who fell into programming within the late ’70s and stayed at it for 20 years, wrote a masterpiece of a memoir referred to as Near the Machine. Simply because they’re each girls in tech doesn’t validate the comparability, after all, however Wiener actively invitations it. She profiled Ullman for The New Republic in 2016, saying that she learn Near the Machine for the primary time at 25, the identical 12 months she moved to San Francisco. Right here is considered one of Ullman’s extra startling passages, speaking a few man she dated: