I read Rebecca Harrington’s upcoming novel Sociable on a Saturday morning, after spending my Friday night in a bar where a young man found out that I’m an English teacher, and proceeded to mansplain the use of the possessive apostrophe to me, but he was drunk and forgot the word for apostrophe, and I’m still laughing about it. Also, I’m about 10 years older than he realized, so, all in all, not this guy’s night.
I mention this not only to have another laugh at this poor guy’s expense, but to highlight the frustrating inanities of small talk. And Sociable describes these inanities perfectly.
When a guy tells Elinor, I bet you’re one of those girls who loves her phone! it’s a strange setup for her to prove that she doesn’t love her frivolous phone, she devotes her time to Important (male-approved) Things. Later, Elinor attempts to make the meaningful party contacts, the sort of job offers and suggestions that come easily to her connected boyfriend, and again, Sociable accurately describes party smalltalk inanities.
And that’s how Sociable sets up the distinction between Will’s writing career, which is long, political thinkpieces at a job handed to him by his parents’ friends, and Elinor’s, which is listicles by the hour at startup Journalism.ly. Sociable also describes the daily vagueness of working in an office without a traditional hierarchy or without job titles with any meaningful distinctions. Who am I supposed to report to? How often? What I am even supposed to do all day? There are a few adults at Journalism.ly, either riding the wave of advertising on 24/7 viral output or wandering around wondering what happened to print journalism, but the staff is mostly twenty-something would-be novelists, churning out listicles and advertainment.
Sociable is a twenty-something -in -the -city story, but there’s no cute, character-filled apartment or handsome stranger in the local independent coffeeshop. Instead, it’s the authentic awkwardness of being half-remembered by a more successful college classmate, having a post-breakup meetup that may actually be a job search, and being kinda good at the internet writing thing.