Friendship: A Novel
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014
272 pp., $26.00
"Things Were Happening to Her"
In a much-quoted line from the pilot episode of HBO's Girls, 24-year-old Hannah Horvath tells her parents, "I think I may be the voice of my generation. Or at least a voice. Of a generation." The line is delivered with tongue firmly planted in cheek, as Lena Dunham—the show's creator and star—is often called the voice of her generation. The show follows Hannah and her friends, who, having finished college, are now killing time while they wait for their best life to materialize (because that's what their parents said would happen). They don't think too hard about sexuality and commitment being linked. They're pretty sure their specialness will carry them through to the next act, whatever that might involve.
Bev Tunney and Amy Schein, the pair of thirtyish friends at the center of Emily Gould's debut novel Friendship, offer some clues as to what lies ahead for Hannah and her cohort. Whereas Dunham's girls are only beginning to sense their jetpacks may just be knapsacks, Gould's are firmly aware of it, having already weathered cockeyed career moves, failed relationships, and aborted runs at graduate school.
Amy (who seems to be Gould's stand-in) had a brief moment of fame on the Internet but now works at a web start-up called "Yidster" run by clueless trust-fund siblings, where she's supposed to give the "Jewish" angle on various daily events. (Mostly she just pokes around on the web all day.) She dates Sam, an artist, and spends too much money on stuff she doesn't need. Every night Sam asks her what happened on the Internet that day, prompting a sort of existential despair familiar to anyone who spends too much time clicking: "How were you supposed to describe the millions of things that had happened? And all those micro events were so inconsequential on their own but so compelling in the moment. All of them were tricking you into thinking they might eventually add up to ...