‘Linda had finally done it. Her hipness had finally radicalised into terrorism.’The year is 2007. The location is San Francisco (how could it not be San Francisco?). The plot follows four Stanford grads into the black hole of their mid-twenties, as they stumble and hesitate and stroll past the benchmarks of adulthood. What follows is an attack on millennials, and on the networks of privilege, vanity and displacement which let them get away with it. This might read as fairly detestable, but Private Citizens has more to offer than satire. Tulathimutte’s protagonists appear as horrified by themselves – and their world – as we are.
Heroine Linda careens from one trainwreck to another, feasting on free drinks and stimulants and men’s souls, a grifter and a succubus forever excusing herself because she’s collecting material for a novel. Meanwhile the best tangents are reserved for Will, an Asian male preoccupied with his own Asian maleness. Shackled to his laptop screen and his girlfriend, vlogging camera hung like an albatross around his neck, Will offers something of a moral compass even as he works his way through the Terabytes of porn which he’s secretly hoarding. That Private Citizens has been aggressively hyped works to its detriment: this is not a ‘Middlemarch for Millennials’, because that’s the kind of ludicrous statement one of Tulathimutte’s ‘marketing ronin’ characters would come out with. It is, however, an epic of its own; dark, orgiastic, and volatile, dancing between humour and horror.
Words – Roisin Kiberd