OOF: An Online Outrage Fiesta for the ages is an ambitious satirical novel aimed at the disinformation and conspiracy theories that dominate our present historical moment. OOF tugs at the threads that connect American cynicism with radical extremism and weaves a character-rich tapestry of insight.
The story centers on its purported author, Strobe Witherspoon, a novelist-provocateur whose latest book paints an unflattering portrait of a Melania Trump-esque first lady. Controversy ignites even before publication, placing Strobe and his family in the middle of a radical conspiracy theory stoked by Strobe’s background in the CIA and exacerbated by revelations of Witherspoon family secrets. As PR battles boil over into actual violence and the Witherspoon family is swept into all sides of a rapidly escalating conflict, Strobe is forced into hiding, where he conceives a way to confront the deceptions now threatening the very nation.
OOF is recounted as a historical document curated from leaked chapters of Strobe’s novel, hacked emails from Strobe’s mother, anti-government blog posts, social media rants, academic journal articles, and profiles in news magazines. 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.
OOF isn’t perfect. The ending feels hasty and uncommitted, and some initially teased mysteries remain obscure. Nonetheless, it’s hard to read OOF and not come away with a sense of validation borne from the explicit recognition of what so many of us feel: that there is something seriously wrong with the way things are, coupled with the articulate expression of what lies at the core of that deteriorating condition.
For that, despite its flaws, OOF represents an impressive achievement of unflinching honesty from a noteworthy talent, as resonant and relevant as it is entertaining.
Also available as an ebook.